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Author: TriSec    Date: 05/16/2017 10:22:26

Good Morning.

Heading right to Washington. With all the other problems we've got going on, you of course know what the budget priority is. That's right - eliminating the sequester caps on the military so we can have more war.



WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump missed his campaign promise to offer a bill to "eliminate the defense sequester” within the first 100 days of his administration, but hawkish Republican lawmakers are pressing ahead.

The heads of the House and Senate armed services committees — bolstered by a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., signed by 141 lawmakers — are calling for a repeal of budget caps for defense.

The organizer of the letter, Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the HASC Air and Land Subcommittee, introduced a bill in March to that effect. On the Senate side, SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said he’s open to whatever works — Turner's bill, a deal with Democrats that repeals budget caps universally or making a vehicle out of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act are on the table.

“I will try anything I can do, including lying down on the floor of the Senate,” McCain told reporters, adding: “Sequestration is an act of sheer political cowardice, because you let a meat ax act without any discrimination, judgment or value — it’s disgraceful.”

McCain and HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, support breaking the caps for defense by $90 billion — which the Aerospace Industries Association has hailed as “a strong starting position for sustained, long-term reinvestment in defense capabilities.” Leftover Obama administration plans exceed caps by $35 billion, and Trump’s proposed a $603 billion defense budget exceeds caps by $54 billion.

Whatever the final number, analysts predict a long slog through Congress, marked by partisan rancor, to reach a bipartisan budget deal that arrives late and falls somewhere between former US President Barack Obama’s projection and Trump’s proposal. As usual, House GOP divisions and the 60-vote threshold in the Senate to modify the caps mean Republicans will have to strike a deal with Democrats — and Democrats are almost sure to oppose amending, if not ending, defense caps by themselves.

The letter marks the first time a majority of House GOP lawmakers have in recent years vocally backed spending increases. It includes Thornberry and other defense hawks who have condemned sequestration as damaging to military readiness, but also the chairman of the fiscally conservative House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and deficit hawks like Rep. Mo Brooks.


But maybe more war is actually needed. I ran across this story from the now-obscure Iraq front. Remember back about 2015, when there was a coordinated effort among Iraqi forces to retake Mosul? Well, they're doing just great. Any day now, they'll take the city. Maybe with just a little help from us.


HAMAM AL-ALIL, Iraq — During a visit south of Mosul on Monday, a senior U.S. official praised territorial gains against the Islamic State group in Iraq, but local officials cautioned more aid is needed to rebuild on the heels of victories against the extremists.

The Mosul fight is approaching its "final stages," Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the global coalition against the IS, told The Associated Press during a meeting with Iraqi military and civilian officials at a water treatment plant near the town of Hamam al-Alil.

"The world is now seeing that (Iraqi) soldiers are completely destroying Daesh," McGurk said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group that is also referred to as IS, ISIS and ISIL. He described the fight to retake Mosul, which was launched nearly seven months ago, as one of the most difficult urban battles since World War II.

But the men who had gathered to receive McGurk and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman were dressed in suits, not fatigues and they had come asking for aid, not weapons and training.

With the fight against IS in Iraq about to enter its fourth year, more than half of the territory the extremists once held is now under government control, but with those advances has come greater demand for reconstruction money.

The U.S. military footprint in Iraq has steadily grown in the build-up to and throughout the Mosul operation, but U.S. funds for humanitarian relief and stabilization remain a fraction of defense spending in the IS fight.

"We are looking for more support as the west side of the city will be liberated soon," Maj. Gen. Muhammed al-Shimary with Nineveh Operations Command told McGurk after thanking him for U.S. assistance in the fight so far.

Last year under the Obama administration, McGurk emphasized the need for a balance between "speed and sustainability" in the fight against IS.

"Before you launch a major operation you have to have in place who is going to hold the city, who is going to govern the city," he told the Senate foreign relations committee during testimony in June 2016.


So, let's finish up today by blaming Obama. It's a thing to do. Before he left office, President Obama charged the VA with reducing homelessness among veterans. Of course, things barely got started before we decided it would be easier to destroy everything and start over. The new head of the VA thinks "it might take longer than we were planning".


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama’s administration of ending homelessness among veterans, but he says it will take longer than his predecessor predicted.

Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an “achievable goal” for President Donald Trump’s administration, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island last week.

“This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economically difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter,” Shulkin said.

Homelessness among veterans has been effectively ended in Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware and in more than 40 communities. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that “we should be there” nationwide within a couple of years.

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecretary of health under Obama, said on Friday, “We’re still looking at a multi-year process.”

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin’s commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

“My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administration up for a missed goal,” said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessness in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. “I’m a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way.”

Richard Blumenthal
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said veteran homelessness can be ended during the Trump administration.

“There’s no reason we can’t achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternatives and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said that homelessness in Los Angeles is a long-term crisis, but that the city has housed more than 8,000 veterans since 2014 and he’s fighting to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home. Los Angeles voters approved a bond in November to raise $1.2 billion for up to 10,000 permanent units.

Navy veteran Chris N. Cardenas said there are some veterans who refuse help or have trouble accessing benefits because of mental illness or substance abuse issues, but 40,000 homeless veterans is far too many.

“That’s a very high number,” Cardenas said. “It can get down to zero for the ones that want the help.”


Maybe if they overrode the sequester for veteran's services instead of more war...


 

47 comments (Latest Comment: 05/17/2017 01:53:23 by BobR)
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