U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is pressing President Obama to ramp up diplomatic efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a letter to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Ellison and several other House Democrats call for an immediate end to the “cycle of violence” in the region.
“Past experience indicates that the current conflict will likely end with a new cease-fire. Ground troops, air strikes, and rockets do not lead to permanent peace in the Middle East,” the letter reads. “The United States government, together with international partners, must redouble our efforts to urge all parties to avoid further loss of life on both sides by coming to a cease-fire.”
The lawmakers praised Israel for its “willingness to agree to the terms of the [cease-fire] agreement” proposed by Egypt, which Hamas has rejected. Their letter also criticizes Hamas for “indiscriminately launching thousands of rockets into Israel.”
The lawmakers also urge the Obama administration to reopen peace talks in the Middle East.
“Additional diplomacy is necessary to save lives and create lasting peace,” the lawmakers write. “… a final status agreement in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security is urgent and necessary.”
President Obama accepted the credentials for new Somali Ambassador to the United States, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, in a ceremony at the White House today.
Sharmake, a former prime minister of the African country, is the first Somali ambassador to the U.S. in more than two decades. Somalia closed its U.S. embassy after warlords ousted formerdictator and President Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Minnesota has the largest Somali population in the United States.
"This is a historic moment for the future of a democratic Somalia and for the future of relations between our two countries,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison said in a statement. “Mr. Sharmarke is well prepared to continue building a free, peaceful Somalia.
"I look forward to working with His Excellency and I would like him to visit Minneapolis as soon as possible. Together, we can promote security, economic prosperity, and well-being for Somalis both here in the U.S. and in Somalia."
Obama also accepted credential for ambassadors from Cabo Verde, Sri Lanka, Armenia and Guinea.
President Obama spent the second day of his visit Minnesota visit offering a strong defense of his record and spark some energy in Democrats as they head into a high-stakes election season.
“Your cares and your concerns are my own, and your hopes for your kids and your grandkids are my own,” he told a crowd of 2,000 people gathered at Lake Harriet on Friday. “And I’m always going to be working to restore the American Dream for everybody who’s willing to work for it. And I am not going to get cynical; I’m staying hopeful, and I hope you do too.”
Obama is trying to keep the U. S. Senate in Democratic hands in the coming election. Losing the Senate would be a major blow to any accomplishments he hopes to achieve in the final two years of his term.
Republicans are trying to frame Obama as out of touch with average Americans and are highlighting new data showing sagging growth in the U.S. economy.
“Instead of coming to Minnesota to listen and consider a different approach on the struggling economy, it’s clear President Obama’s visit is all about doubling down on his failed, partisan agenda and pumping up Democrats ahead of a tough midterm election,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short.
Republicans have also tried to highlight that the Twin Cities mother who has come to embody the trip for the president had been a Democratic campaign worker in Washington state.
Obama came to Minnesota after Twin Cities’ mother Rebekah Erler wrote him a letter about the hardships of raising a family.
Obama had lunch with Erler on Thursday and sprinkled anecdotes through her life throughout her speech.
“It’s amazing what you can bounce back from when you have to,” she wrote to the president. “We’re a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
Obama took that personal anecdote to make a larger statement about the country.
“And that describes the American people,” he said. “We, too, are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.”
While President Obama touted a middle class-centric economic agenda at Lake Harriet, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was a few miles away focusing on voters that Democrats see as pivotal to their political success: women.
Pelosi, the former U.S. House speaker from San Francisco, participated in a discussion that's part of an economic agenda being promoted by House Democrats that they've dubbed "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds." It includes three principle policy goals: fair pay, paid leave and affordable child care options.
"What is the best thing we can do to grow our economy? Unleash the power of women in our economy," Pelosi told a group of about four dozen invited guests at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison joined Pelosi for the discussion, which also included several women who shared stories of challenges in the workforce.
House Democrats have held around 70 such sessions in recent months, with Pelosi participating in nearly 30 of them.
Both Obama and Pelosi attended a Thursday night fundraiser in Minneapolis for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which defends Democratic-held seats in the U.S. House and funds candidates trying to unseat Republicans.
Asked about U.S. House races in Minnesota this year, Pelosi said the top priority was holding on to seats of three Democratic incumbents in greater Minnesota: Rick Nolan in northeastern Minnesota, Collin Peterson in western Minnesota and Tim Walz in southern Minnesota. Ellison and Rep. Betty McCollum represent Minneapolis- and St. Paul-based districts with high numbers of Democrats.
Tyler Q. Houlton, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Pelosi is "right to be worried about Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson's re-election chances in November. No amount of Pelosi's money will erase their long voting records."
The economic agenda laid out by Pelosi and Ellison is similar to a package of new laws that Minnesota legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton passed into law earlier this year. That package, called the "Women's Economic Security Act," included law changes meant to shrink pay differentials between men and women, and other changes intended to increase womens' earning power.
Pelosi praised the Minnesota effort, which becomes law next week, and said it should be a model for the Congress.
Republican U.S. Reps. John Kline and Michele Bachmann are cheering a Supreme Court ruling that dealt a blow to the powers of the presidency.
The justices ruled unanimously Thursday that President Obama violated the Constitution when he circumvented the Senate to make appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012.
“The president’s unprecedented action was one of many intended to further his own partisan agenda by circumventing the Constitution and side-stepping Congress,” said Kline, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
“Thankfully the Supreme Court has helped rein in his abuse of power and restored some checks and balances to our system of government.”
Bachmann used her Twitter account to blast out this message to her 220,000 followers: “The Supreme Court upheld limits on executive power today. Finally someone said no to President Obama’s freewheeling unconstitutional style.”
To the dismay of Republicans, Obama invoked a constitutional provision that granted him the power to make temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess.
The Supreme Court ruled the Senate was not in a formal recess when Obama acted.
“Now the board will have to begin the process of reconsidering hundreds of decisions issued by the unconstitutionally appointed members,” Kline said. “The men and women who were thrown in limbo by the president’s unconstitutional overreach have waited long enough for the justice they deserve.”
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