April 19th, 2011
04:39 PM ET

Should U.S. be funding Mideast rebel groups?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In the abstract, it's a noble calling: Support oppressed people's yearning to breath free. Over the years, the United States has made a general practice of coming down on the side of people who are fighting for their freedom. But now that there are a dozen uprisings in the Middle East, it's probably worth taking a closer look to see if it's really that good of an idea.

Syria, for example, has been the scene of unrest since mid-March. The Washington Post reports that the U.S. State Department has secretly financed several Syrian political opposition groups since 2005. The Post reporting was based on diplomatic cables the folks at Wiki-leaks got a hold of. The State Department refused comment on the authenticity of the cables, but a deputy assistant secretary of state said the State Department does not endorse political parties or movements. Baloney.

If you provide aid - military, financial, humanitarian - you do.

In Libya, nobody knows who we are supporting but by participating in NATO-led air strikes, we're supporting someone. And as tensions continue to rise in Yemen, Bahrain, Iran, and elsewhere, we may want to exercise caution about who we are getting into bed with...

Oh, and the other part is we don't have any money. We really don't have any money. And for people in this country who have been unemployed for years, can't find a job and are faced with the thought of their unemployment benefits running out, telling them we're giving cash to a shadowy poorly organized dysfunctional group of malcontents in some faraway middle eastern country ain't going to go down so well.

Here’s my question to you: Should the U.S. be funding rebel groups in the Middle East?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress • Government • Middle East • Senate • Senate and Congress • United States
April 14th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

How should Congress spend Spring Break?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress is gearing up for a two-week spring break that starts this weekend. They must be exhausted. This afternoon, the House passed that much-anticipated $38.5 billion spending cut. It went on to the Senate where it passed as well... now lawmakers can hand it over to the president and look ahead to vacation.

Getting out of town might be a good move.

You see, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office revealed Wednesday that the budget deal that was made at the 11th hour before a threatened government shutdown - the deal that was touted as creating the largest spending cuts in American history - will really cut only $352 million in spending this year, not $38.5 billion as we were told.

Many of the cuts will have little or no effect on how much money the government actually spends because the cuts come from programs that are outside the reach of the annual budget.

I wonder if we're ever told the truth about anything anymore.

When Congress returns all tanned and rested, the members will have just a few weeks to address raising the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department says the United States will reach its borrowing limit of about $14.3 trillion in mid-May. If Congress doesn't approve a measure to raise the debt ceiling before then, all hell could break loose. Even a hint that it might happen would shake up world markets and knock the wind out of our already weak economy.

Some Republicans insist they won't vote to raise the debt ceiling ... in the name of fiscal responsibility.

Get ready for another game of chicken.

But Congress is going to take two weeks off anyway.

Here’s my question to you: How would you suggest members of Congress spend their two week Spring Break?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress
March 24th, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Why won't Congress and Pres. get serious about debt crisis?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The federal government has been operating without a budget for six months, instead lurching from one stop-gap spending measure to the next. And the inability or unwillingness of the president and Congress to do the jobs they were elected to do is starting to have an impact.

A new report on CNN Money.com highlights some of the growing money woes:

The U.S. military has delayed a total of 75 projects. And the Army has deferred contracts for new equipment like Chinook helicopters and held off on refurbishment projects of war-torn Humvees.

No big deal. We're only fighting three wars.

There are hiring freezes at the Justice Department, Social Security Administration and Congressional Budget Office. And the Army and the Marine Corps have temporarily stopped hiring civilians.

Eight new Social Security offices will not open.

National Institutes of Health officials are underfunding some grants, due to uncertainty over the budget.

Almost one year ago, President Obama launched the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a bipartisan deficit commission. The group released its final report in December, but the suggestions have been all but ignored.

This week, ten ex-chairs of the President's Council of Economic Advisers wrote an opinion piece on Politico.com urging Congress and the President to act quickly. They said, "The unsustainable long-run budget outlook is a growing threat to our well-being. Further stalemate and inaction would be irresponsible." Want to bet that's ignored too?

Here’s my question to you: Why won't Congress and the President get serious about America's debt crisis?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Filed under: Congress • Economy • Government • President Barack Obama
March 22nd, 2011
03:59 PM ET

Should Pres. Obama have consulted with Congress before U.S. military to Libya?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Quite a few members of Congress are not happy with President Obama over his decision to allow U.S. air attacks in Libya. They feel they weren't given any say in the whole matter…which they weren't. And the criticism of the president is coming in from everywhere.

Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas says the no-fly zone is unconstitutional. Liberal Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich from Ohio has brought up the idea of impeachment hearings for President Obama's actions. No surprise there... but it's not just the far right and the far left up in arms. Moderates like Democratic Senator and former Navy Secretary Jim Webb and Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee. They aren't happy with the president either.

Yesterday the President sent an official letter to Congress asserting his authority to make the decision on Libya based on the Constitution and War Powers Resolution. The letter said he was acting in the "national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."

The president did hold a briefing for congressional party and committee leaders in the White House Situation Room on Friday before any attacks were launched. But many lawmakers say that wasn't enough.

Here’s my question to you: Should President Obama have consulted with Congress before sending the U.S. military against Libya?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


March 8th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

Should Congress vote again to raise nation's debt ceiling?


The National Debt Clock in New York City. (PHOTO CREDIT: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As Congress continues to all but ignore the debt crisis in this country, the threat of a government shutdown is now less than two weeks away. Lawmakers are looking to make spending cuts for this fiscal year's budget both Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

It won't happen.

With a $14 trillion debt and a projected deficit of $1.6 trillion for this year alone, Congress is arguing over whether to cut $10 billion or $60 billion from the budget. They are completely divorced from reality in Washington.

Here's the reality:

Sometime between April 15 and May 31, our national debt is going to exceed the debt ceiling – the U.S. borrowing limit – which now stands at $14.29 trillion.

The debt ceiling has been raised 40 times in the last 30 years. Under President George W. Bush, Congress approved measures to increase the debt limit seven times.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke both want the debt limit raised. If it's not raised, they say the United States could default on loans and other financial obligations, which could lead to an economic meltdown.

President Obama and Democratic leaders support raising the debt ceiling. Of course. But Republicans say they'll vote down any measure to increase the debt limit unless some sort of cap on federal spending is included.

Here’s my question to you: Should Congress vote again to raise the nation's debt ceiling?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Filed under: Congress • Congressional Spending • National debt
January 25th, 2011
04:10 PM ET

Women politicians more effective than men?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Turns out you can add politics to the list of things that women do better than men. It's a long list.

The Daily Beast reports on a new study that shows female politicians are among the most productive and persuasive ones in the country.

This research in the American Journal of Political Science is the first to compare the performance of male and female politicians. It shows women do a better job at securing pork for their home districts and shaping policy.

From 1984 to 2004, women politicians won about $50 million more a year for their districts than men did.

As for policy, women sponsored more bills and attracted more co-sponsors than their male counterparts. The female politicians' bills also made it further through the legislative process and got more media attention.

The authors say this is because women do a better job at "logrolling, agenda-setting, coalition building and other deal-making activities."

They suggest women make better politicians because they have to. Consider that women hold less than one in five of all national seats, so the ones who make it to Washington better be pretty good.

The study concludes that in order to overcome any bias against women in leadership roles, these female politicians have to work even harder to be seen as equals.

Sound familiar?

They call their study "The Jackie (and Jill) Robinson Effect," a reference to the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. He was also one of the greatest of all time.

The comparison here is that because of racism during Robinson's era, black baseball players had to be better than whites to make it to the big leagues.

Here’s my question to you: Why are women politicians more effective than men?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


January 10th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Some members of Congress to carry guns?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In light of the tragedy in Tucson and the attempted assassination of a sitting member of Congress, some lawmakers are taking matters into their own hands.

They say they plan to carry guns in public in their home districts.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah tells CNN he's always had a concealed weapon license and has often carried a weapon, but says now he may "do it more regularly."

Chaffetz says he's already gotten half a dozen threats that have caused him to call the capitol police or local law enforcement - and that's after only 2 years in office.

He also thinks Congress should consider using the U.S. Marshals service to provide security for lawmakers in their districts - like they do for federal judges.

Politico reports that Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler of North Carolina also plans to carry a gun more often and increase security in his district. Shuler is even encouraging staffers to get their own permits to carry a gun. Shuler was the victim of a serious death threat a couple years back.

Other lawmakers are taking steps to tighten security in their offices. Some suggest that local law enforcement could play a larger role at events like the one where Congresswoman Giffords was shot or at town hall meetings.

But - other members of Congress say they won't change their lifestyles at all. They say they'll continue to engage their constituents and offer full access.

Here’s my question to you: What does it say about the U.S. that some members of Congress will now be carrying guns?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress • Firearms
December 15th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill that some lawmakers haven't seen? 

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Congress had all year to do the public's business, but it didn't.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)

It's Congress' job to pass a budget, which they didn't even bother to try to do. But check out what they came up with at the last minute:

A $1.1 trillion, 2,000-page omnibus spending bill put together behind closed doors. This Senate bill - which would fund the federal government for a year - includes more than 6,000 earmarks. Of course, this all comes only weeks after many senators swore off earmarks.

Republicans are blasting the bill, calling it "completely inappropriate." They say many in their caucus haven't even seen the bill.

Here we go again. Some lawmakers haven't even read the thing, but congressional leaders expect it to just sail through.

Instead of a government-wide, or omnibus spending bill, Republicans are calling for a short-term continuing budget resolution, which is similar to what the House passed last week - without any pork.

Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to keep Congress in session through the Christmas holidays and into next near, saying, "We're not through. Congress ends on January 4."

You see, with just days to go before the Democrats lose their majority in the House, they've decided now is the time to pass the legislation they haven't gotten around to in the last two years including an arms treaty with Russia, an immigration bill, repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," you name it.

It's no wonder that according to Gallup polling Congress' job approval is at a historic low of 13 percent. That's the worst it's ever been in the 36 years they've asked this question.

Here’s my question to you: Should Congress pass a 2,000-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill that some members haven't even seen?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress • Congressional Spending
December 14th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What will (or won't) you miss about the outgoing Congress?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The lame duck session of the 111th Congress is mercifully winding down.

A man highlights vacant offices on a floor plan during an office selection lottery for new House of Representatives members.

A man highlights vacant offices on a floor plan during an office selection lottery for new House of Representatives members.

And the Democrats are going to have a lot of unhappy supporters to face as they head home nearly empty-handed.

For starters, it's looking like the deal that President Obama struck with Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts will pass Congress - even though many Democrats object to it.

Also, the Democratic majority is running out of time to pass key items in their own agenda. And you can bet once the Republicans take control of the House in January, it ain't gonna happen.

This includes the so-called Dream Act - an immigration initiative that would provide a path to citizenship for those who came here illegally as children. It's stalled in the Senate, much like the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

If Democrats don't get these through now - and it's looking unlikely with a Republican filibuster in the Senate - that means at least another two years before they have a shot at controlling both houses of Congress.

Experts say that Democrats are going to have to explain to their base how they didn't get this stuff passed when they had overwhelming majorities in Congress for the last two years. It's a fair question.

Others suggest the Democrats need to look for small legislative victories in the coming days and weeks in order to salvage their pride and save some face.

Here’s my question to you: What will (or won't) you miss about the outgoing Congress?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress
December 1st, 2010
04:22 PM ET

Why won't Congressman Charlie Rangel just go away?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The case of New York Congressman Charlie Rangel is bordering on pathetic.

After being found guilty of 11 ethics violations after a two-year investigation, the full House is set to vote on censuring the New York Democrat on Thursday. It's sort of sad really.

The Ethics Committee overwhelmingly recommended censure last month, which is the harshest punishment short of expulsion.

The 80-year-old Rangel is asking the House for the lesser penalty of a reprimand. Rangel claims that censure should only be used in cases where corruption was proved.

There was a time before the guilty verdict that Rangel could have simply walked away with his reputation intact. But apparently his monumental ego wouldn't allow it. Now it's too late. By continuing to whine publicly about his treatment, Rangel, who has served in Congress for 40 years, diminishes himself.

He came out of the Korean War a decorated combat veteran, was elected to Congress and has remained there for 20 terms. In fact, he was just re-elected in spite of the ethics cloud hanging over him.

Among other things, Rangel was found guilty of not paying taxes for 17 years on his rental home in the Dominican Republic, failing to report assets for a decade, misusing a rent-stabilized Harlem apartment as a campaign office and misusing congressional resources to raise money for a college center named after him.

Rangel has apologized for what he calls honest mistakes and wrote his behavior off to "sloppiness." The House Ethics Committee found otherwise.

The ethics scandal cost Rangel the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and more than $2 million in legal fees.

Here's my question to you: Why won't Congressman Charlie Rangel just go away?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Congress
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