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Congress debates military intervention in Syria

After the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, apparently used chemical weapons against its own citizens, President Obama indicated that he would intervene militarily in the Syrian conflict. After initially indicating that he would not seek Congressional approval, the White House pivoted and announced that they would seek approval from the House and Senate.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted, 10-7, to approve a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria. The full Senate is expected to take up the resolution next week.

This week, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) all announced their support for the authorization of force resolution. Despite bipartisan support among both parties' leadership in the House, the prospects of passage are still murky. Vote estimates, as of Friday morning, have put the no votes at 190, leaving President Obama and supporters of intervention with little room for error.

G20 Summit in St. Petersburg

The G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, a gathering of 20 countries that account for one third of the world's population and 90 percent of the globe's economic output, has been dominated by talk of possible intervention in Syria.

The G20 summit is supposed to be focused on global economic issues, but those issues have been largely drowned out by the current debate about whether or not military intervention in Syria is appropriate. Most of the G20, with exception of France, is either vocally opposed to intervention or holds serious doubts.

Even when attention does turn to economic issues, the 20 assembled nations remain divided. After an unprecedented level of cooperation during the 2009 global financial crisis, the G20 is now splintered about how to spur global economic growth.

Despite widespread agreement, future of highly skilled immigrants in doubt

Very few issues in this deeply divided Congress have enjoyed the wide bipartisan agreement like that which exists around the question of how the U.S. should treat highly skilled immigrant workers.

Overwhelmingly, most Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate agree that it should be easier for the American companies to attract and retain experts in specialized fields of work. Companies large and small want the ability to hire more such immigrants. And the workers themselves—thousands of them, from all over the globe—want to come.

Despite this bipartisan and bicameral support, efforts to reform the current H-1B visa program, which is the primary vehicle for workers to live in the U.S.—and often a precursor to citizenship—is extremely uncertain.

The uncertain future is due in large part to the broader disagreement that exists over a comprehensive immigration reform package. The Senate has made H-1B reform part of a comprehensive piece of legislation that includes a path to citizenship. The House has rejected the Senate's comprehensive approach and has instead chosen to take the issue up piecemeal so far.

It remains to be seen whether H-1B reform will eventually pass on its own or whether its fate will continue to be tied to the broader immigration reform bill.



Consideration of bipartisan energy efficiency legislation delayed

The Senate was supposed to begin consideration of a bipartisan energy efficiency bill next week, but the debate over military action in Syria has delayed such consideration according to Senate Democratic leadership.

The bill, authored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), contains measures to boost building codes, train workers in energy efficient building technologies, help manufacturers become more efficient, and bolster conservation efforts at federal agencies.

Senate Democratic leadership has indicated that the legislation would be the first item on the floor after the Syria debate has been concluded.

Political Bits:


California 7th Congressional District: Rep. Tom McClintock's (R-CA) Chief of Staff Igor Birman announced Thursday that he would enter the Republican primary to challenge incumbent Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA). He is the third Republican to announce for the seat.

Idaho 2nd Congressional District: Tea Party challenger Bryan Smith (R-ID) is up with what is described as a "five figure" radio ad buy against incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson over Simpson's failure to support legislation defunding Obamacare.


Kentucky: Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) will head to California on September 26 for a fundraiser with major Democratic donors, including DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. Grimes is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). 

A look ahead:


Tuesday, September 10 -- The House Homeland Security Committee’s Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on "Fulfilling a Key 9/11 Commission Recommendation: Implementing Biometric Exit" at 10 a.m. in 311 Cannon.

Tuesday, September 10 -- The House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health has a hearing scheduled at 10:30 a.m. on the Affordable Care Act’s “Implementation Challenges for States and Job Creators.”

Tuesday, September 10 -- The House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Education Research: Exploring Opportunities to Strengthen the Institute of Education Sciences" at 10 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn.

Wednesday, September 11 -- The House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on "Keeping College Within Reach: Supporting Higher Education Opportunities for America's Servicemembers and Veterans" at noon in 2175 Rayburn.

Wednesday, September 11 -- The House Financial Services Committee’s Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee will hold a hearing, "The Fed Turns 100: Lessons Learned over a Century of Central Banking" at 2 p.m. in 2128 Rayburn..


Tuesday, September 10 -- The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee hearing on "Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws" at 10 a.m. in 216 Hart. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole will testify.

Wednesday, September 11 -- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a full committee hearing, "The Department of Homeland Security at 10 Years: Examining Challenges and Achievements and Addressing Emerging Threats" at 10 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.

Washington by the numbers

29 - The percentage of Americans who favor airstrikes in Syria.

24 - The number of substantive bills passed by the 113th Congress, making it one of the least productive in recent history.

Washington humor

“President Obama is pretty clever. Did you see what he is doing to get Congress to approve the attack? He told them Syrian President Assad supports Obamacare.” -- NBC’s Jay Leno 



 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies LLC

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