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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Senate Committee Nixes New Iran Sanctions

The Senate Banking Committee decided to shelve new Iran sanctions, giving the Obama administration the space it wants to negotiate a more complete deal. Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry argued that for Congress to impose sanctions would prevent top diplomats from effectively negotiating. Iran’s foreign minister had previously warned that if Congress imposed new sanctions, the nuclear deal would be dead.

On shelving the santions, Senator Tim Johnson said: “I agree that the administration’s request for a diplomatic pause is reasonable. A new round of U.S. sanctions now could rupture the unity of the international coalition against Iran’s nuclear program.” However, Senator Lindsay Graham disagreed with the decision: “I want the Iranians to understand that Congress believes the only reason they’re at the negotiating table is because of sanctions. The interim deal is a terrible deal. It doesn’t dismantle any of their nuclear capabilities. There is bipartisan support for additional sanctions, and Congress wants a vote.”

The Banking Committee’s decision to shelve sanctions is seen as a victory for the Obama administration, although Republican lawmakers have threatened to append new sanctions to the next defense appropriations bill.

Drone Strike Kills 13 in Yemen

Missiles from U.S. drones killed 13 people in a convoy heading to a wedding in Yemen. The drone strike occurred in Radda, an al Qaeda stronghold in the Bayda province. A military official told The Washington Post that the drone’s pilot mistook the wedding party for an al Qaeda convoy.

An outcry over the U.S. military’s use of drones has been gradually building in Yemen, leading some to protest the drones with graffiti and poetry. If these wedding part members were, in fact, killed by mistake, this latest mishap will almost certainly renew Yemeni anger about the drone program.

Boehner Harshly Criticizes Tea Party

Speaker of the House John Boehner had harsh words for conservatives who opposed the Ryan-Murray budget compromise on Thursday. In a press conference, Boehner said that conservative groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth were “misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility.”

Heritage Action and the Club for Growth had both criticized the deal, which calls for smaller budget cuts than the sequesters had, while lowering the overall deficit over ten years, on Wednesday. These conservative groups attested that the sequestration measures the bill partly reverses were successfully reducing the deficit, and that the bill relies on promises of future spending cuts.

Boehner had stayed relatively quiet about the right-wing groups during the government shutdown in October, but minced no words this afternoon. When asked if the groups should stand down, Boehner told reporters, “I don’t care what they do.”

Hundreds Memorialize Sandy Hook Victims in Washington

Hundreds of people gathered at Washington National Cathedral to honor and memorialize the children and staff members who died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on the one-year anniversary. The family members had decided that they would rather have a small, respectful, and low-key gathering in Washington, D.C. than a large gathering in Newtown. The organizers said that this is partly to remove Newtown itself from the limelight and draw the focus back on the individuals who were murdered.

Singer Carole King performed at the service, which was attended by several members of the Newtown community — including family members.

In the year since the Sandy Hook massacre, 173 children under 12 have been killed by guns.

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