Showing posts with label The President. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The President. Show all posts

December 15, 2018

President Obama Looks Like He is The Cat That Swallow The Bird!

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama frequently dined at restaurants in Washington, including Boundary Road in 2012.CreditLuke Sharrett for The New York Times.

Imagine being the couple on the left. They came to this dive because it has a good reputation for down to earth good food. As they glanced at their menus a black couple  sits next to them on the following empty chairs. They look at each other and whisper "they really look them" but then they see what appears to be the secret service!
Then Michelle give them that smile of hers and introduces herself and her huband " Michelle and Obama" Now you can see these couple's smile. It could not be wider or more original.

But then you see the President Obama's smile and he looks like he is the cat that sswallow the bird. lol!

Roll to 2018 and see on which table would you rather be?

December 5, 2017

Trump Lawyer Does Not Seem to Know But The President Can Obstruct Justice

By Danny Cevallos, MSNBC legal analyst

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, said Monday that the "president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution’s Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case." 
As stated, that is probably not an accurate statement of the law. 
Obstruction of justice is a general term applying to a number of federal crimes. Obstruction crimes usually consist of 1) an act and 2) the requisite criminal intent. The "act" in obstruction is influencing, obstructing or impeding any one of the "pending proceedings" specifically described in several different obstruction statutes. 
What qualifies as a "pending proceeding" has been debated over the years. A pending congressional investigation or court case qualifies as a pending proceeding under certain obstruction statutes. 
But it's less certain as to whether, if Trump did have knowledge of Michael Flynn's false statements to the FBI, that would fit into the obstruction statutes, if that knowledge occurred prior to any "proceeding." 
Even if Trump did interfere with a pending proceeding, this alone is not enough. The interference must be done with "corrupt" intent, which Congress has defined as having an "improper purpose." 
In other words, a president can — and does — influence investigations and proceedings. As the head of the executive branch, he is not only expected to do so; he cannot avoid doing so. 
The president's views influence, if not direct, Department of Justice policy. This is legal, too, so long as the president does so for the public benefit, and not for an improper purpose, such as self-preservation. The president can absolutely obstruct justice by influencing an investigation or a proceeding, but only if it is with a corrupt purpose. 
Reasonable legal minds differ as to whether a sitting president can be prosecuted in state or federal court. 
Even if the president cannot be prosecuted while still in office, it is relevant to determine if the president commits obstruction. First, the commission of a "high crime" like obstruction is relevant to whether the president is impeachable. Second, the Constitution explicitly tells us that the president can be impeached, removed and then prosecuted for conduct committed while in office. 
If the tweet from Trump’s lawyer is intended to suggest the president cannot commit crimes, that is categorically untrue. Not only can the president commit a crime, he can (eventually) be prosecuted for it. 
If not, then Gerald Ford would have had no reason to pardon Richard Nixon after the 37th president resigned from office. While Nixon may have believed that what the president does is not illegal, the weight of legal authority suggests otherwise. 
Danny Cevallos is an MSNBC legal analyst. Follow him on Twitter @CevallosLaw

September 6, 2017

Democrats Win Over DACA and Debt Ceiling On Deal With the President

 Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi

Trump supports the Democratic plan to pass Harvey spending, and extend the debt limit and a continuing resolution both for three months.
A Republican close to leadership: "Dems bluffed their way into total victory. They win the politics of DACA and leverage on debt in the winter. The fate is sealed - DACA will be reauthorized without strings, Schumer has inserted himself into all negotiations in the winter, including tax, spending, and immigration." 
  • Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer announced the news in a joint statement after meeting with Trump and Congressional leadership at the White House.
  • According to a source briefed on the meeting with POTUS, "McConnell, Ryan, McCarthy, and Mnuchin all advocated for a longer debt limit. Basically everyone with an R behind their name."
  • Paul Ryan said earlier today that this was a "ridiculous" and "disgraceful" move since it was playing politics.
  • Trump agreed with Schumer and Pelosi on short term debt, McConnell wanted a continuing resolution to be a part of that package, according to a person familiar with the debate.
Pelosi and Schumer's statement:
"In the meeting, the President and Congressional leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a continuing resolution both to December 15, all together. Both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December and look forward to working together on the many issues before us. As Democratic leaders, we also made it clear that we strongly believe the DREAM Act must come to the floor and pass as soon as possible and we will not rest until we get this done."


July 22, 2017

Can Trump Pardon Himself?

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump is seeking to understand his pardon power, a development that seems directly linked to the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the foreign power. 
The Post raises the possibility of Trump pardoning top advisers, family members and even himself. Can he do that? To answer that question, I reached out to Brian C. Kalt. Kalt is a professor of law at Michigan State University and the author of a 2012 book entitled "Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies." Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.
Cillizza: Let's start with the Constitution. What does it say, specifically, about presidential pardoning power?
KaltArticle II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution says that the president "shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment." So it doesn't reach state crimes (only "offenses against the United States") and it can't stop or undo a congressional impeachment, but other than that the power is pretty broad. Contrary to what many people think, there is no requirement that a person must be charged or convicted before being pardoned. 
The only other limits are things that are implicit in the definition of a "pardon." So, for instance, a pardon can only reach things you already did. It can't suspend the law in advance, because that wouldn't be a "pardon."
Cillizza: Can a president actually even be prosecuted in office?
Kalt: It's not clear. I (in Chapter 1 of my book, "Constitutional Cliffhangers: A Legal Guide for Presidents and Their Enemies") and many others have argued that presidents cannot be prosecuted while in office, but the argument is complicated and there are points on both sides. 
The Constitution does not explicitly provide for presidential immunity, and that's good enough for some people to say a prosecution would be fine. But the Constitution also makes the president the head of the executive branch that would be doing any federal prosecuting, so a president couldn't really be prosecuted by the federal government unless he effectively consented. 
It is very awkward to have even an independent counsel go after the president, because the president's ultimate control over the executive branch means that the president can derail the investigation as long as he is willing to pay the political price. State prosecutions are awkward too, because having one county district attorney haul the president of the whole country into one is structurally awkward.
If you like the idea of one county DA whose ideology you share having that power and using it against a president you dislike, ask yourself if you would like it if the parties were reversed. Imagine a county DA with politics opposite yours, pursuing a president you like.
Impeachment provides another structural piece of the puzzle. There is broader consensus that presidents can be prosecuted once they have left office, and impeachment can hasten that day.
Cillizza: No president has ever pardoned himself. But what about the pardon of a top adviser? And what was the blowback if any?
Kalt: One example was President Bush (43)'s commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence, but that did not make a very big splash. Another example is President Bush (41), when he pardoned Caspar Weinberger and other Reagan administration officials in December 1992 regarding the Iran-Contra affair. They were not his aides, but he had worked alongside them in the previous administration and Bush was swept up in the scandal to some extent as well. But Bush had already lost the election, so there was nothing much for the blowback to blow back on.
Cillizza: Presidential pardons have become a late-in-the-term move due to the controversy they cause. Has that always been the case, historically speaking?
Kalt: Historically, there does seem to be a slight increase in the use of the pardon power toward the end of terms, but not a lot of overly controversial ones. 
More recently, though, we saw very controversial lame duck pardons by Bush(41) (as mentioned above) and by President Clinton, who pardoned Marc Rich, Susan McDougal, and his brother, Roger Clinton, among many others, on his way out of office. Given what happened to President Ford -- who pardoned President Nixon in 1974 and then lost the election in 1976 partly as a result -- you can see why they might have wanted to wait until after the election (even if a president isn't running for re-election, like Clinton in 2001, he might want to avoid harming his party's prospects). 
But one of the reasons that the framers of the Constitution gave the pardon power to the president was that he is politically accountable. That makes it troubling when presidents wait until the end [of their term], when they are at their least accountable, to issue controversial pardons.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "The chances of a president being able to pardon himself are roughly ______%." Now, explain.
Kalt: Ha! I have been studying self-pardons and writing about them for over 20 years now (including in Chapter 2 of my book), and I have thoroughly convinced myself that any court faced with the issue should rule against self-pardons' validity. But "should" and "would" are two different things, and it is so hard to predict just what the Supreme Court would do that I can't say with any precision. I'll just say that I think it's less than 50%, but not close to 0%. 
On the president's side is the fact that the Constitution does not expressly prohibit self-pardons.
The argument is a bit more complicated on the prosecution's side -- that's how it would get to court; the president would have to pardon himself and the prosecutor would have to prosecute him anyway, presumably after the president had left office. 
First, as I said in my answer to [your first question], there are limits in the pardon power implicit in the notion of what a "pardon" is. So the prosecutor would say that a pardon is inherently bilateral -- something you can only give to someone else. "Pardon" comes from the same Latin root as "donate," and it doesn't make sense to speak of donating things to yourself. 
Second, there is a venerable principle in the law that no one can be the judge in his own case. We would not permit a judge to preside over his own trial, for instance. So we would say here that if a president wants a pardon he has to get it from someone else, i.e., a successor. 
Third, there are some historical arguments that support the idea that the framers of the Constitution assumed presidents could not pardon themselves.
One could also interpret your question more practically: What are the chances that a president would feel able to get away with a self-pardon. Given how bad it would look, how it provides grounds for impeachment, and how it could even be a crime of its own (similar to how a pardon given in exchange for a bribe could be prosecuted as a bribe, a pardon given to obstruct justice could be prosecuted as obstruction of justice), and given how it would not affect any state prosecutions, presidents have lots of good reasons not to try to pardon themselves.


January 20, 2017

The Speech in a few quoted words Took me Back to Another Era

Decree, glorious, stealing, protection, winning like never before, off welfare and back to work,  we will shine for everyone to follow, loyalty to each other, solidarity, unstoppable, no fear, protected by the military and law enforcement, protected by god, protection, fight, we will not fail, free the earth of the miseries of disease, we bleed the same blood of patriots, dreams, eradicate from the face of the earth, courage, make America wealthy again, here and now, enriched other governments, enriched americans.
Ended with right hand fist salute.

Missing: Call to unity, call for the american people to help him but instead the military and the police. The word “We”
Also missing: Enthusiasm and loud applause from the crowd.

These are the words I heard that took me away to a different era I have only read and seen on tape but not witnessed. I am sure that every person that reads these few words will see a different meaning. I have no idea of how many will see that it matches other words and for sure there are not words that were said or at least emphasized in any other inauguration that was cover live since I have been witnessing them.

There is plenty of pictures and , opinions and minute by minute live and tape coverage. As is the rule of this blog to try to post what is missed on current stories.


January 19, 2017

Approval of President’s Cabinet Choices



November 15, 2016

Chelsea Manning Asks The President to Commute Her Sentence

U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning, who is serving 35 years in prison for passing classified files to WikiLeaks, has asked the Obama administration to commute her remaining sentence to the time she has already served, The New York Times reported on Sunday.  

Manning made the request in a Nov. 10 petition to President Obama, a copy of which the Times obtained from Manning's attorney. She attempted suicide on Oct. 4 at the start of her stay in solitary confinement, where she was sent for also attempting to take her own life in July. 
In the statement, Manning assumed responsibility for her actions, saying they were wrong, but said her life was in turmoil at the time of the leaks. She was confronting gender dysphoria at the time while deployed to Iraq, the Times said. 
Manning also wrote of her treatment in prison and her multiple suicide attempts, saying: "I am not asking for a pardon of my conviction."
"The sole relief I am asking for is to be released from military prison after serving six years of confinement as a person who did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members," the statement said. 
Manning's petition was accompanied by letters of support from Daniel Ellsberg, best known for releasing the classified Vietnam War history known as the Pentagon Papers, Morris Davis, a former military commissions chief prosecutor, and Glenn Greenwald, a legal commentator and journalist who has been a prominent supporter, the Times said. 
Manning, a transgender Army private who was born male and revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman, is being held at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas. 
She has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

November 3, 2016

Pres.Obama Smacks Down FBI Chief Without Naming Him

 President Obama sharply criticized the decision by his F.B.I. director to alert Congress on Friday about the discovery of new emails related to the Hillary Clinton server case, implying that it violated investigative guidelines and trafficked in innuendo.

“We don’t operate on incomplete information,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with NowThis News, broadcast Wednesday. “We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”

“When this was investigated thoroughly the last time, the conclusion of the F.B.I., the conclusion of the Justice Department, the conclusion of repeated congressional investigations was that she had made some mistakes but that there wasn’t anything there that was prosecutable,” Mr. Obama said.

The president did not mention the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but it was clear Mr. Obama was referring to him.

Declaring that he had “made a very deliberate effort to make sure that I don’t look like I’m meddling in what are supposed to be independent processes for making these assessments,” Mr. Obama nonetheless expressed confidence in Mrs. Clinton.

“I trust her,’’ he said. “I know her. And I wouldn’t be supporting her if I didn’t have absolute confidence in her integrity and her interest in making sure that young people have a better future.’’

White House officials later downplayed Mr. Obama’s remarks about the F.B.I. and insisted he had not meant to criticize Mr. Comey.

“The president went out of his way to say he wouldn’t comment on any particular investigations,” Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Air Force One while Mr. Obama was en route to North Carolina to campaign for Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Schultz characterized Mr. Obama’s remarks as mirroring those made in recent days by the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, who had said that while the White House would not criticize Mr. Comey’s decision to update Congress on the status of an ongoing investigation, Mr. Obama believed that rules intended to keep such investigations confidential were good ones and should be followed.

For the last several days, the F.B.I. has been analyzing emails belonging to Huma Abedin, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton. Agents discovered the emails last month in an unrelated investigation into Ms. Abedin’s estranged husband, the disgraced former congressman Anthony D. Weiner.

*New York Times

*Now This Now

July 13, 2016

Over 5 Million Private Emails Lost by White House (2007)


Back in 2007, the White House "lost" more than five million private emails. The story was barely covered

Eric Boehlert, Media Matters

 This article originally appeared on Media Matters. 
Even for a Republican White House that was badly stumbling through George W. Bush’s sixth year in office, the revelation on April 12, 2007 was shocking. Responding to congressional demands for emails in connection with its investigation into the partisan firing of eight U.S. attorneys, the White House announced that as many as five million emails, covering a two-year span, had been lost.
The emails had been run through private accounts controlled by the Republican National Committee and were only supposed to be used for dealing with non-administration political campaign work to avoid violating ethics laws. Yet congressional investigators already had evidence private emails had been used for government business, including to discuss the firing of one of the U.S. attorneys. The RNC accounts were used by 22 White House staffers, including then-Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who reportedly used his RNC email for 95 percent of his communications.
As the Washington Post reported, “Under federal law, the White House is required to maintain records, including e-mails, involving presidential decision- making and deliberations.” But suddenly millions of the private RNC emails had gone missing; emails that were seen as potentially crucial evidence by Congressional investigators.
The White House email story broke on a Wednesday. Yet on that Sunday’s Meet The PressFace The Nation, and Fox News Sunday, the topic of millions of missing White House emails did not come up. At all. (The story did get covered on ABC’s This Week.)
By comparison, not only did every network Sunday news show this week cover the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emails, but they were drowning in commentary. Between Meet the PressFace The NationThis Week, and Fox News Sunday, Clinton’s “email” or “emails” were referenced more than 100 times on the programs, according to Nexis transcripts. Talk about saturation coverage.
Indeed, the commentary for the last week truly has been relentless, with the Beltway press barely pausing to catch its breath before unloading yet another round of “analysis,” most of which provides little insight but does allow journalists to vent about the Clintons.
What has become clear over the last eight days however is that the Clinton email story isn’t about lawbreaking. “Experts have said it doesn’t appear Clinton violated federal laws,” CNN conceded. “But that hasn’t stemmed the issue that has become more about bad optics and politics than any actual wrongdoing.” The National Law Journal agreed, noting that while the story has created a political furor, “any legal consequences are likely to prove negligible.”
Still, the scandal machine churns on determined to the treat the story as a political blockbuster, even though early polling indicates the kerfuffle will not damage Clinton’s standing.
Looking back, it’s curious how the D.C. scandal machine could barely get out of first gear when the Bush email story broke in 2007.  I’m not suggesting the press ignored the Rove email debacle, because the story was clearly covered at the time. But triggering a firestorm (a guttural roar) that raged for days and consumed the Beltway chattering class the way the D.C. media has become obsessed with the Clinton email story?  Absolutely not. Not even close.

June 25, 2016

The First Gay Friendly President Builds an LGBT National Movement


President Obama has named New York’s Stonewall Inn a national monument, the first such dedication marking the gay rights movement in the United States.

The Stonewall Inn is a Greenwich Village gay bar and the site of a police raid and subsequent riots in 1969 that helped ignite the American gay rights movement. In a White House video released Friday, Obama said that movement “ultimately became an integral part of America.”

Naming the Stonewall Inn as a national monument has been in the works for months. But its official commemoration on Friday comes at a critical moment for America’s LGBT community, after 49 people died when a gunman opened fire in an Orlando gay nightclub earlier this month.
That attack — categorized by federal officials as a hate crime and terror attack — has added fuel to the debate over federal legal protections for the LGBT community, which had already played out publicly and acrimoniously in the U.S. House this year.

It also raised the question of how the gay rights movement can influence the political debate over gun control: the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s biggest LGBT advocacy group, announced last week that it would advocate for stricter gun control measure after the shooting.

Commemorating Stonewall comes as the Obama administration increasingly looks to highlight the gay rights movement around the country.

The Department of Interior announced in May 2014 that it would conduct a “theme study” of important LGBT sites around the United States. It has named nine sites historical landmarks or added them to the National Register of Historic Places since then.

“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights,” Obama said in the video.

“I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country: the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us, that we are stronger together, that out of many, we are one.” 

June 11, 2016

Pres.Obama Warns LGBT to be Vigilant About the Pace of Progress

 Gay rights activists need to be vigilant to maintain their pace of progress, President Barack Obama said at a White House LGBT reception.

An "LGBT Pride" event has been held annually at the White House during the Obama administration. Leading figures in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender movement attended Thursday's event.
In addressing the attendees, Obama said changing attitudes in the country are advancing faster than laws.

"You know, when you talk to the upcoming generation, our kids — Malia, Sasha's generation — they instinctively know that people are people, and families are families," he said. "Discrimination, it's so last century. It doesn't make sense to them."

"Change can be slow, and I know that there have been times where at least some of the people in this room have yelled at me," he said. "But together, we've proven that change is possible, that progress is possible. It's not inevitable, though. History doesn't just travel forward; it can go backwards if we don't work hard. So we can't be complacent."

It was not until the fourth year of Obama's administration that he announced his support of same-sex marriage.

In his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois in 2004, he told a reporter that he did not support same-sex marriage, saying the word marriage has "strong religious roots."

In 2012, he officially changed his position, telling ABC News, "I've been through an evolution on this issue."

June 10, 2016

President Meets with Sanders, Sanders Changes Tone{will meet Hillary}

 It seems there is one common denominator that will make all of these three leaders work to unite the Democrats against Trump. It’s happening already!

Senator Bernie Sanders met with President Obama on Thursday and said afterward that he would do everything within his power to stop Donald J. Trump from becoming president — and would work closely with Hillary Clinton to make that happen.

After the meeting with Mr. Obama, which lasted more than an hour, Mr. Sanders gave no indication that he was ready to leave the race just yet, insisting that he would compete in next week’s primary contest here in Washington. However, he made clear that party unity was on his mind.

“I will work as hard as I can, to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States,” Mr. Sanders told reporters, saying the Manhattan businessman “makes bigotry and discrimination the cornerstone of his campaign” and would be a “disaster” as commander in chief.

He said he would continue fighting for the issues that animated his campaign, including enhancing Social Security benefits, college affordability and restoring the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

“These are the issues that we will take to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July,” Mr. Sanders said, declining to answer reporters’ shouted questions about whether he would leave the race.

Shortly after their meeting, Mr. Obama endorsed Mrs. Clinton in a video. He also praised the campaign that Mr. Sanders ran.

The visit came a day after the senator huddled with his team at his headquarters in Vermont to discuss the fate of his candidacy.

If You Think the Democratic Primary Race Is Close, the 2008 One Was Even Tighter
How the 2008 Obama-Clinton race could inform Sanders’s path forward.



If You Think the Democratic Primary Race Is Close, the 2008 One Was Even Tighter 

How the 2008 Obama-Clinton race could inform Sanders’s path forward. 
Mr. Sanders, who requested the meeting with the president, pulled into the White House grounds at 10:56 a.m. after stopping at a nearby Peet’s Coffee for a scone. Mr. Obama and Mr. Sanders strolled down the colonnade next to the Rose Garden on their way into the Oval Office, chatting inaudibly and grinning broadly. Nearby, a thick line of cameras and cluster of microphones were assembled in the driveway outside the West Wing, where journalists peppered the Vermont senator with questions.

Mr. Obama was trying to negotiate, however gently, with him to exit the Democratic race without inflicting damage on efforts to unite the party.

“My hope is, is that over the next couple of weeks, we’re able to pull things together,” Mr. Obama said during a taping of an appearance on the “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Wednesday in New York. “There’s a natural process of everybody recognizing that this is not about any individual.”

Briefly posing for photographers before his meeting in the Capitol with Senator Harry Reid, the minority leader, Mr. Sanders ignored three questions about Mr. Obama’s endorsement of Mrs. Clinton.

His face flushed, Mr. Sanders did not speak at all. But Mr. Reid gently scolded the assembled journalists for asking questions at what was supposed to be just a photo opportunity.

After his meeting with Reid, Mr. Sanders made a quick exit through a back hall on his way to meet with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. He was also scheduled to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

After Mrs. Clinton won Tuesday’s California primary, Mr. Sanders refused to quit the race, despite Mrs. Clinton’s wide margin of victory and the fact that she had the support of enough delegates for the nomination. But some of his supporters have started to walk away, prompting growing calls that it is time to bring the party together to defeat Mr. Trump.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sanders sent out a fund-raising email asking for contributions of $2.70, and at 7 p.m. he will hold a rally outside of R.F.K. Stadium in Washington, where he will discuss his plans for getting big money out of politics and making public universities tuition free.

Correction: June 9, 2016 
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated how Hillary Clinton secured enough delegates for the Democratic nomination. She had enough superdelegates and pledged delegates combined to reach the threshold, she did not reach it through pledged delegates alone.

April 30, 2016

LGBT Community Braces to Fight Religious Anti Gay Legislation

Freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki )
The country’s largest LGBT rights group on Thursday went to battle against a religious-based amendment tacked onto the annual defense policy bill that advocates say would strip away gay rights in federal contracting.
The Human Rights Campaign called it the first legislation to pass a congressional committee that would roll back expanded rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at the federal level since the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to marry.
“We see this as social conservatives in the House trying to push what they view as a religious liberty exemption and use it as a sword rather than a shield,” David Stacy, the HRC’s director of government affairs, said in an interview.
The measure, introduced by freshman Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.) at 12:30 a.m. as the House Armed Services Committee prepared to pass the defense bill, would require the government to give religious organizations it signs contracts with exemptions in federal civil rights law and the Americans Disabilities Act.
Those laws do not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. So the legislation would effectively override the executive order President Obama issued in 2014 prohibiting federal contractors from such discrimination.
The amendment provides an exemption for “any religious corporation, religious association, religious educational institution or religious society” contracting with the government. It quickly prompted heated exchanges between Russell and committee Democrats, who said it was purposefully unclear. 
The measure, approved 33-29 on a mostly party-line vote at 2 a.m., could signal that the backlash in numerous states against LGBT anti-discrimination laws is now moving to Congress.
Stacy said that defeating the amendment on the House floor and in the Senate is now one of Human Rights Campaign’s top priorities. By late Thursday, a coalition of 42 civil rights groups called the Coalition Against Religious Discrimination had sent the committee a letter opposing the amendment.
It “would authorize taxpayer-funded discrimination in each and every federal contract and grant,” the letter said of the measure. “The government should never fund discrimination and no taxpayer should be disqualified from a job under a federal contract or grant because he or she is the ‘wrong’ religion.”
Stacy said the language in the amendment also would apply to organizations that receive federal grants. “If the government says, we’re going to fund a homeless shelter, they can refuse to hire an LGBT person to staff it even if 40 percent of the people they’re serving are LGBT,” he said.
Russell said his aim was simply to clarify “ambiguous language” concerning the rights of religious groups that already exists in federal law.
“Unfortunately, guidance from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, however well-intended, has caused confusion on the president’s executive order regarding religious contractors within the scope of their protections under law,” Russell told his colleagues. He said he wants to ensure that faith-based organizations — about 2,000 receive federal contracts every year — are on equal footing with secular ones.
But Democrats accused Russell of trying to mask what his amendment would really do: Allow federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees.
“The way this amendment is written, it doesn’t matter if you are a religious organization,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the committee’s ranking member.
“You can basically be a private contractor and this just gives you the right to discriminate if you decide you just don’t want to do business with gay people or with anybody else for that matter on a discriminatory basis within a protected class.”
The sweeping defense authorization bill is likely to go to the House floor in the next few weeks. The Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to mark up its version.

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