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Bush Has Not Decided on Troop Surge for Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/20 17:55
President Bush says he has not yet made up his mind about whether to send more troops to Iraq.

At a year-end news conference from the White House complex Wednesday, the president said he is looking at all options, including ordering a short-term surge in U.S. forces. But he said he will only deploy more troops if there is a specific mission that can be accomplished with the addition.

The president acknowledged that 2006 was a difficult year for U.S. troops and for Iraqis. But he stressed that the enemy in Iraq needs to understand that it cannot intimidate American forces, and that his administration will not pull out of the country prematurely.

Mr. Bush also said he believes an increase in the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps is needed, and he has asked his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, to report to him on plans to enlarge the forces as quickly as possible.

On the economy, Mr. Bush said he supports a Democratic proposal to increase the U.S. minimum wage, but he said it should be coupled with tax and regulatory relief for small businesses. He said he will work with Democrats to keep the economy strong.

He said he would also seek common ground with Democrats to reform the country's immigration laws and its national pension system, Social Security.

The Democrats won control of both houses of Congress in the November general elections.



Bush Meets with Congressional Leaders on Iraq
Law & Politics | 2006/12/08 19:22

President Bush says it was a very constructive meeting with Republican leaders who now control Congress and Democratic leaders who will take charge in January.

"We talked about Iraq," he said. "We talked about the need for a new way forward in Iraq. And we talked about the need to work together on this important subject."

The president assured Democrats that the "White House door will be open" when they become the majority party in the next Congress, and said he hopes they can meet regularly.

"The reason you meet on a regular basis is so that the American people can know that we are working hard to find common ground. That is what they expect us to do. They expect us to work on big problems and solve them," he said.

Mr. Bush thanked outgoing Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert who lost their leadership positions in last month's electoral defeat for Republicans. With Democrats set to take charge of Congress in January, the president said he looks forward to working with incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Bipartisanship is central to the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, which said the United States deserves a debate on Iraq that prizes substance over rhetoric.

Among the study group's recommendations are talks with Iran and Syria and the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

But, following talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, President Bush said there will be no direct talks with Iran until it gives up what he says is its nuclear weapons program. Iran has long denied that is seeking to make nuclear weapons. It says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Mr. Bush also said there would be no dialogue with Syria until it stops interfering in Lebanon.

As for troop levels, Mr. Bush said he needs to be "flexible and realistic" about U.S. withdrawals from Iraq.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president will also consider pending reports on Iraq from the Pentagon, State Department, and National Security Council with the goal of making an address to the nation on the issue sometime before Christmas.



President Bush Accepts Bolton's U.N. Resignation
Law & Politics | 2006/12/05 21:20

Washington -- President Bush has accepted “with deep regret” the resignation of U.S. Representative to the United Nations John Bolton.

In a statement released by the White House December 4, the president credited Bolton with leading negotiations in the U.N. Security Council that resulted in unanimous resolutions on North Korean military and nuclear activities, a resolution calling on Iran to suspend the enrichment and reprocessing of uranium, and a U.N. peacekeeping commitment to Sudan.

Bolton was appointed to the post in August 2005 during a period when the U.S. Senate, which normally would vote on the nomination, was in recess.  Under the U.S. Constitution, a president may make temporary recess appointments without Senate confirmation.

The president re-nominated Bolton on November 9, but administration officials believed that his nomination did not have enough support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to come to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Bush said some senators were practicing “stubborn obstructionism” by “obstruct[ing] his confirmation” despite Bolton having the support of the majority of the Senate.  “[T]heir tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time,” Bush said.

White House press secretary Tony Snow blamed Bolton’s difficulties in the Senate on “partisanship and not performance,” adding, “for whatever reason the confirmation process seems to be broken.”

The press secretary called on both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate to cooperate on “a confirmation process that allows competent people who share the president’s goals and policies to become confirmed for key positions.”



Controversial U.N. ambassador to step down
Law & Politics | 2006/12/04 18:45

Unable to win Senate confirmation, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton will step down when his temporary appointment expires within weeks, the White House said Monday. President Bush named Bolton to the position on an interim basis last year through a recess appointment that will expire when the new congressional session begins in January. A September vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on whether to confirm Bolton's nomination as the permanent US ambassador to the UN was delayed  in what the Bush administration called a "political" block due to old grievances, not his performance as ambassador. Bolton's nomination to the position in 2005 was stalled on the Senate floor after the Foreign Relations Committee declined to endorse the nomination. Senate Democrats at the time said Bolton "lacked credibility" due to accusations that he took advantage of intelligence analysts through his role as the head US diplomat for arms control and Bolton's inaccurate statements on a confirmation process questionnaire.

President Bush, in a statement, said he was "deeply disappointed that a handful of United States senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate."

"They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation."

Bush gave Bolton the job temporarily in August 2005, while Congress was in recess. Under that process, the appointment expires when Congress formally adjourns, no later than early January.

The White House resubmitted Bolton's nomination last month. But with Democrats capturing control of the next Congress, his chances of winning confirmation appeared slight. The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, said he saw "no point in considering Mr. Bolton's nomination again."



Democrats Sweep of US Congress is Election Triumph
Law & Politics | 2006/11/09 18:07

(VOA) - The Democratic Party appears to have regained control of both houses of the U.S. Congress from President Bush's Republican Party.

American media reports say that challenger Jim Webb has defeated Republican incumbent George Allen in the Senate race in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is the last Senate race from Tuesday's mid-term elections to be decided.

Allen has not yet conceded defeat, but major newspapers and television networks report that Webb holds more than a 7,000 vote lead.

Opposition Democrats have already swept to victory in the U.S. House of Representatives. Projections show that the party holds a majority of 229 seats in the 435-seat chamber.

If Webb indeed wins in Virginia, Democrats and Republicans will each hold 49 of the Senate's 100 seats. Two independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have pledged to vote with the Democrats, tipping the balance in the Senate to Democratic Party control.

The Democratic Party victory comes on the back of voter frustration with the war in Iraq and several political scandals. And it sets the stage for a number of policy battles with the White House. The Democrats have not controlled both chambers of Congress in 12 years.

President Bush has expressed disappointment with the election results, but he called on both political parties to work together. He is meeting separately Thursday, with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders.

Opinion polls showed that dissatisfaction with President Bush and his handling of the Iraq war drove many voters to vote for Democrats.

Meanwhile, California Democrat Nancy Pelosi is poised to become the first female Speaker of the House. She has pledged to work with congressional Republicans.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of the U.S. state of Nevada said the message from the electorate was clear, and that Americans voted for change.



Undocumented Workers Petition for Non-Discrimination
Law & Politics | 2006/11/03 19:35

NEW YORK - (ACLU) The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Employment Law Project and the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law today filed a petition urging the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to find the United States in violation of its universal human rights obligations by failing to protect millions of undocumented workers from exploitation and discrimination in the workplace.

The petition was submitted to the commission on behalf of the United Mine Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Interfaith Justice Network and six immigrant workers who are representative of the six million undocumented workers in the United States labor force.

"The most poorly paid and least desirable jobs in the United States are filled by undocumented immigrants, yet the government increasingly limits the safeguards available to this population, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and workplace discrimination," said Claudia Flores, an attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. "The United States government has an obligation under universal human rights norms to protect vulnerable populations, such as immigrant women, and has failed in this regard."

Undocumented immigrants make up nearly five percent of the U.S. labor force. However, employment and labor protections under state laws have been either eliminated or severely limited for undocumented workers in some states. These include such basic workplace protections as freedom from workplace discrimination and entitlement to hold an employer responsible for a workplace injury.

"International human rights law requires the United States to apply its workplace protections equally and without discrimination based on immigration status. We bring this petition to cast a global spotlight on the U.S. government’s poor human rights record in protecting undocumented workers from discrimination and to demand accountability from states and the federal government, all of whom are obligated to protect and defend human rights," said Chandra Bhatnagar, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program.

The individuals named in today’s petition have each tried to assert their workplace rights but were unsuccessful. They are:

Jesus L., a Michigan poultry worker who suffered severe injuries, requiring spinal reconstruction surgery, after falling from the top of a chicken house onto a concrete floor. The insurance company for Jesus’ employer refused to provide workers’ compensation to cover time off work because he was undocumented.

Yolanda L.R., a widow whose husband was killed on a construction site in New York because of his employer’s criminal negligence. Yolanda’s compensation for her husband’s wrongful death compensation will be affected by his immigration status.

Francisco Berumen Lizalde, a painter in Kansas who was prosecuted and deported, likely as a consequence of filing a workers’ compensation claim after he fell from scaffolding and fractured his hand.

Leopoldo Z., a Pennsylvania farm worker who underwent three surgeries and continues to suffer nerve damage and chronic pain as a result of a workplace accident. Leopoldo’s employer suspended his medical benefits when it became clear he would not be able to promptly return to work.

Melissa L., a woman who had to leave her job in New Jersey when workplace sexual harassment became intolerable. She filed a claim against her employer, but because



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