International Relations:Mending Fences with Mexico


Last Thursday, the White House hosted its fifth bilateral meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. The meeting marked Calderón’s second visit to the U.S. under the Obama administration. While the previous visit focused mainly on immigration and border issues, last week’s meeting centered on the drug war and trade. The meeting came at a time that experts describe as a “rough patch” in U.S.-Mexico relations. Those relations were already strained following the release of WikiLeaks cables in which U.S. officials sharply criticized Calderón’s drug war efforts. The “crisis blew up” shortly after a popular Mexican newspaper published an interview with Calderón in which he blasted U.S. diplomats and stated that U.S. cooperation in the Mexican drug war is “notoriously insufficient.” Just a few days earlier, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was brutally shot and killed in an alleged roadside attack in Mexico by members of the Zetas drug cartel. These tensions have been further exacerbated by an ongoing commercial trucking dispute and the U.S. immigration debate. “Calderón’s upcoming visit has the potential to break this counterproductive historical cycle,” wrote Shannon O’Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations prior to the visit. The Woodrow Wilson Center’s Andrew Selee called the meeting an “outstanding success.” “The meeting with President Obama was challenging, but both sides saw it as extremely positive and an opportunity to get the tone of the relationship on track,” wrote Selee. Yet, with both presidents coming to the end of their terms, the larger political forces within each respective country will play a big role in shaping U.S.-Mexico relations in the months to come.

DRUGS: Calderón has long faced criticism from within and outside Mexico for militarizing the drug war and failing to curb the escalating violence that has resulted in over 22,000 casualties over the past three years. WikiLeaks cables revealed that some U.S. officials are “privately worried that poorly trained Mexican soldiers and a federal police force hobbled by corruption were failing to slow the surging violence.” Despite these concerns, the U.S. was careful to work with, rather than against, Mexico following the murder of agent Zapata. Nonetheless, Zapata’s death brought the concerns expressed in the WikiLeaks cables back to the forefront as Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal publicly compared Mexico’s drug cartels to an “insurgency.” Meanwhile, Calderón responded by calling for more cooperation and noting that drug consumption in the U.S. is what is fueling Mexico’s woes. In preparation for the bilateral meeting, the Obama administration sent Congress a request for $10 billion in funding for programs to reduce U.S. drug consumption. In his speech with Calderón, Obama pledged to continue supporting Mexico’s drug war. “We are very mindful that the battle President Calderón is fighting inside of Mexico is not just his battle, it’s also ours,” stated Obama. A senior administration official told the Washington Post that $900 million has been committed in 2011 to the Merida Initiative, a security cooperation between the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. Just a few weeks after Calderón vented his anger about a lack of coordination, he stated that “both governments have taken on our positions as co-responsible parties in the fight against transnational organized crime.” However, some Americas experts still question whether this consensus, which is largely based in a militarized approach, is actually a good thing.

GUNS: In the days following Zapata’s death, the gun which killed the federal agent was traced to a Texas man suspected of attempting to deliver at least 40 firearms to a Mexican drug cartel. The AK-47 was purchased at a U.S. gun show. The news came just a couple of months after a U.S. border agent was killed by weapons linked to a Phoenix gun store that were later smuggled into Mexico. “Members of the Judiciary Committee have received numerous allegations that the ATF sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers, who then allegedly transported these weapons throughout the southwestern border area and into Mexico,” wrote Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in a letter to the acting bureau director of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives back in February. Federal authorities have confirmed that over 60,000 U.S. guns have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years. Last time Calderón visited the U.S., he pleaded to a joint session of the U.S. Congress for more help in limiting the flow of weapons to Mexico. “Believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands,” said Calderón. “The Americans, rather than regulating or establishing an adequate drug or immigration or arms legislation have allowed organized crime to regulate those markets,” affirmed Calderón in an interview with Univision. President Obama said last week that he believes “that we can shape an enforcement strategy that slows the flow of guns into Mexico, while at the same time preserving our Constitution.” Yet, what that enforcement strategy will look like is still unclear. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to block the Obama administration from implementing a proposal which would have required gun dealers near the U.S.-Mexico border to alert authorities when they sell within five consecutive business days two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines.

TRUCKS: For over 16 years, Mexico and the U.S. have been engaged in a bitter cross-border trade dispute. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) granted Mexican trucks that meet certain requirements full access to U.S. roads. Yet, safety, environmental, and labor concerns expressed by U.S. trucking officials, unions, and government authorities have prevented the U.S. from complying with NAFTA’s trucking provision since its enactment. After years of failed negotiation, Mexico responded in 2009 by imposing $2.4 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs on 89 U.S. products. Last week, Obama announced that “after nearly 20 years, we finally have found a clear path to resolving the dispute over trucking between our two countries.” The new plan will reportedly allow in the U.S. Mexican trucks that comply with stringent safety standards. “I look forward to consulting with Congress and moving forward in a way that strengthens the safety of cross-border trucking, lifts tariffs on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, expands our exports to Mexico, and creates job on both sides of the border,” stated Obama. Mexican Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari has already announced plans to cut the tariffs and sign on to a formal agreement in June. Despite the enormous progress made on the issue, the trucking agreement requires congressional approval which may not come so easily. International Brotherhood of Teamsters president Jim Hoffa told the Wall Street Journal that the new trucking deal “caves in to business interests at the expense of the traveling public and American workers.” In 2009, the U.S.Chamber of Commerce — which supports the trucking agreement — estimated that the dispute resulted in 25,000 lost American jobs, $2.6 billion in foregone U.S. exports, and $2.2 billion in higher costs for U.S. businesses and consumers.

Immoral …


Dear MoveOn member,

It’s time to sound the alarm.

This week, Congress could cut a deal on the budget. And if Republicans get their way, billions will be cut from vital programs that millions of Americans count on—while tax cuts for the richest are protected.

But most people don’t have any idea what’s at stake—and how devastating these cuts would be to their communities—even though the cuts could take effect within weeks. So we’re launching an emergency campaign to spread the word. Republicans want to gut programs with enormous public support, and hope no one notices. So it’s up to all of us to spark a public outcry before it’s too late.

The devastating impact these cuts will have on our country—and on your community—is unprecedented. Check out the list below. If we can get it out to a million people, we can start to sound the alarm and stop the GOP. Click here to post on Facebook and Twitter, or simply forward this email.

Thanks for all you do.

–Daniel, Peter, Carrie, Kat, and the rest of the team

Top 10 Worst Things about the Republicans’ Immoral Budget

The Republican budget would:

1. Destroy 700,000 jobs, according to an independent economic analysis.

2. Zero out federal funding for National Public Radio and public television.

3. Cut $1.3 billion from community health centers—which will deprive more than 3 million low-income people of health care over the next few months.

4. Cut nearly a billion dollars in food and health care assistance to pregnant women, new moms, and children.

5. Kick more than 200,000 children out of pre-school by cutting funds for Head Start.

6. Force states to fire 65,000 teachers and aides, dramatically increasing class sizes, thanks to education cuts.

7. Cut some or all financial aid for 9.4 million low- and middle-income college students.

8. Slash $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, a cut that experts say would “send shockwaves” through cancer research, likely result in cuts to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research, and cause job losses.

9. End the only federal family planning program, including cutting all federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood to support cancer screenings and other women’s health care.

10. Send 10,000 low-income veterans into homelessness by cutting in half the number of veterans who get housing vouchers this year.

We’ve got to get the word out about this awful budget—right away. Please, share this with your friends on Facebook and Twitter, or by forwarding this email, today.

Sources:

1. “GOP spending plan would cost 700,000 jobs, new report says,” The Washington Post, February 28, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206357&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=6

2. “GOP budget would cut funding for public broadcasting,” The Washington Independent, February 14, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206513&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=7

3. “NACHC Statement in Response to the Budget from the House Appropriations Committee,” National Association of Community Health Centers website, accessed March 4, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206514&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=8

4.”Bye Bye, Big Bird. Hello, E. Coli.,” The New Republic, February 12, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206104&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=9

House Republican Spending Cuts Target Programs For Children And Pregnant Women

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206566&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=10

5. “Obama and the GOP’s Spending Cuts: Where’s the Outrage?” Mother Jones, February 18, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206569&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=11

6. Ibid.

7. “Deficit Reduction on the Backs of the Most Vulnerable,” Center for American Progress, March 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206518&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=12   (PDF) 

8. “The GOP Budget and Cancer—Why New Research Is at Risk,” Politics Daily, February 27, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206515&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=13

“Republican Budget Cuts at Heart of Medical Research: Albert Hunt,” Bloomberg, February 20, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206516&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=14

“Durbin: Cuts to NIH put research jobs at risk,” Business Week, February 28, 2011

http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9LLSCB00.htm

9. “GOP Spending Plan: X-ing Out Title X Family Planning Funds,” Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206105&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=15

10. “House GOP Spending Cuts Would Prevent 10,000 Low-Income Veterans From Receiving Housing Assistance,” Think Progress, March 1, 2011

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=206517&id=26412-17809870-IywQf0x&t=16

Congress:debates & votes today -the Republican led House -the Senate


The Senate Convenes at  9:30amET March 8, 2011

Morning business for 2 hours with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each with the Republicans controlling the first hour and the Majority controlling the final half.

Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of S.23, the America Invents Act, post-cloture.

By unanimous consent, all time during adjournment, morning business and recess will count post-cloture on S.23.

The Senate will recess from 12:30pm until 2:15pm for the weekly caucus luncheons.

The Majority Leader hopes to reach an agreement regarding H.R.1 and the Democratic alternative. Senators should expect roll call votes during Tuesday’s session of the Senate.

The Senate has reached an agreement to complete action on S.23, America Invents Act, tonight and to set up votes on H.R.1 and the Democratic alternative offered by Senator Inouye tomorrow at 3pm.

Under the agreement, the Reid amendment #152 was withdrawn and the Reid amendment #143 (EPSCOR), was modified and agreed to. There will now there will be up to 30 minutes for debate equally divided prior to a vote on passage of S.23, as amended, the America Invents Act. Senators should expect the vote on passage to begin around 6:15pm, if all time is used. However, time may be yielded back.

Furthermore, at 12:00 noon tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9, there will be up to 3 hours for debate on H.R.1 and the Democratic alternative offered by Senator Inouye. Upon the use or yielding back of time, there will be 2 roll call votes on the following items:

– Passage of H.R.1, Department of Defense Appropriation and Long Term Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011; and

– Inouye substitute amendment #149 (Democratic Alternative).

Each proposal will be subject to 60-vote thresholds. If H.R.1 achieves 60 votes, it will be read a third time and passed and, if it doesn’t achieve 60 votes, Senator Reid will be recognized to offer the Inouye substitute amendment #149. If the Substitute achieves 60 votes, the bill, as amended, would be read a third time and passed, and if it doesn’t achieve 60 votes it will be returned to the calendar. No motions or amendments are in order to the substitute or the bill prior to the votes.

Cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R.1 was vitiated.

Votes:

35: Passage of S.23, as amended, the America Invents Act;

Passed: 95-5

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CURRENT HOUSE FLOOR PROCEEDINGS

LEGISLATIVE DAY OF MARCH 8, 2011

112TH CONGRESS – FIRST SESSION

7:09 P.M. –

SPECIAL ORDER SPEECHES – The House has concluded all anticipated legislative business and has proceeded to Special Order speeches.

7:07 P.M. –

ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with further one minute speeches.

7:04 P.M. –

Mr. Bishop (UT) filed reports from the Committee on Rules, H. Res. 150 and H. Res. 151.

H. Res. 149:

electing a Member to a certain standing committee of the House of Representatives

7:03 P.M. –

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to without objection.

Mr. Larson (CT) asked unanimous consent to consider as introduced.

Considered by unanimous consent.

H.R. 525:

to amend the Public Health Service Act to enhance and increase the number of veterinarians trained in veterinary public health

7:01 P.M. –

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 280 – 138 (Roll no. 164).

6:53 P.M. –

Considered as unfinished business.

H.R. 570:

to amend the Public Health Service Act to enhance the roles of dentists and allied dental personnel in the Nation’s disaster response framework, and for other purposes

6:52 P.M. –

Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection.

On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: (2/3 required): 401 – 12 (Roll no. 163).

6:31 P.M. –

Considered as unfinished business.

6:30 P.M. –

UNFINISHED BUSINESS – The Chair announced that the unfinished business was the question of adoption of motions to suspend the rules which had been debated earlier and on which further proceedings had been postponed.

The House convened, returning from a recess continuing the legislative day of March 8.

4:31 P.M. –

The Speaker announced that the House do now recess. The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 P.M. today.

4:30 P.M. –

The Speaker laid before the House a message from the President transmitting a notification that the national emergency with respect to Iran shall continue – referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and ordered to be printed (H. Doc. 112-13).

H.R. 525:

to amend the Public Health Service Act to enhance and increase the number of veterinarians trained in veterinary public health

4:29 P.M. –

At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed.

4:23 P.M. –

DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 525.

Considered under suspension of the rules.

Mr. Burgess moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill.

H.R. 570:

to amend the Public Health Service Act to enhance the roles of dentists and allied dental personnel in the Nation’s disaster response framework, and for other purposes

4:22 P.M. –

At the conclusion of debate, the Yeas and Nays were demanded and ordered. Pursuant to the provisions of clause 8, rule XX, the Chair announced that further proceedings on the motion would be postponed.

4:13 P.M. –

DEBATE – The House proceeded with forty minutes of debate on H.R. 570.

Considered under suspension of the rules.

Mr. Burgess moved to suspend the rules and pass the bill.

The Speaker announced that votes on suspensions, if ordered, will be postponed until 6:30 p.m. today.

4:12 P.M. –

The House received a communication from the Honorable Mrs. Christensen . Mrs. Christensen submitted her resignation from the Committee on Homeland Security. The resignation was accepted without objection.

The House received a communication from Robin Reeder, Archivist, Office of the Clerk. Pursuant to Rule VIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, Ms. Reeder notified the House that she had been served with a civil subpoena, issued before the Evidentiary Panel for the State Bar of Texas, for documents and that after consultation with the Office of General Counsel, she had determined that compliance with the subpoena was inconsistent with the precedents and privileges of the House.

The House received a communication from the Honorable Mrs. Christensen . Mrs. Christensen submitted her resignation from the Committee on Natural Resources. The resignation was accepted without objection.

4:01 P.M. –

ONE MINUTE SPEECHES – The House proceeded with one minute speeches.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – The Chair designated Ms. Foxx to lead the Members in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.

The Speaker announced approval of the Journal. Pursuant to clause 1, rule I, the Journal stands approved.

4:00 P.M. –

Today’s prayer was offered by the House Chaplain, Rev. Daniel Coughlin.

The House convened, returning from a recess continuing the legislative day of March 8.

2:23 P.M. –

The Speaker announced that the House do now recess. The next meeting is scheduled for 4:00 P.M. today.

2:00 P.M. –

MORNING-HOUR DEBATES – The House proceeded with Morning-Hour Debates. At the conclusion of Morning-Hour, the House will recess until 4:00 p.m. for the start of legislative business.

The Speaker designated the Honorable Kevin Yoder to act as Speaker pro tempore for today.

The House convened, starting a new legislative day.