Category Archives: foreign relations

Corker seeks delay of Saudi Arabia lawsuit vote

Two leading Republican voices on national security — Senators Bob Corker and Lindsey Graham — want to postpone a vote on whether to override President Barack Obama’s promised veto of legislation to let families of 9/11 terrorist attack victims sue Saudi Arabia, reports Bloomberg News.

The delay would give senators more time to consider the likelihood its enactment would “backfire on us” because “once we create the opportunity for U.S. citizens to sue another government we also open the door for the same thing to happen to us,” said Corker, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Corker and Graham are raising concerns about the foreign policy ramifications of the legislation even though it sailed through both chambers and was sent to the president a day after the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said Obama will reject the legislation, though he hasn’t announced the timing of the planned veto.

Corker said in an interview that he hopes “the veto will come back after we are gone” so the Senate doesn’t vote on overriding it until after “a couple-months cooling period takes place.” The Senate could leave town by the end of next week if it completes work on a stopgap spending bill to fund the government when the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Corker and Graham are at odds with many of their colleagues in both parties including Republican Whip John Cornyn, who has pressed for a pre-election vote. A co-sponsor of the bill, Cornyn challenged Obama in a floor speech not to “leave the families dangling” and promptly issue a veto to enable a vote before Congress adjourns this month to go home and campaign.

Corker said a delay may allow the Senate to consider changing the bill. “Having some time go by could end up causing some constructive things to occur,” the Tennessee Republican said. “Might not, but I’m certain that by next Friday that won’t happen.”

South Carolina’s Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who also heads the Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, which writes the spending bill for U.S. embassies and diplomatic programs, said he wants to “buy some time here” to “make the bill more palatable but also be in the interest of the families.”

Graham said that the legislation threatens U.S. relations.

“The Saudis let me know in no uncertain terms that they see this bill as a hostile act,” he said. “I want to make sure that the families are taken care of here, but I have come to the conclusion that the person to blame for 9/11 is bin Laden.”

Note/Update: Sen. Corker’s staff has sent along this additional comment since this post first appeared: “Unless the White House offers a solution that appropriately addresses both sovereign immunity issues and the concerns of 9/11 families, the veto override will likely be overwhelming.”

ECD comish plans Japanese journey

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd will lead Tennessee’s delegation at the 39th Annual Joint Meeting of the Southeast U.S./Japan and Japan-U.S. Southeast Associations (SEUS-Japan) in Tokyo from September 20-22.

The joint conference of the two associations celebrates longstanding economic and cultural ties between Japan and the Southeast U.S. The prestigious gathering brings together Japan’s top CEOs, corporate executives and government officials alongside governors and economic development leaders from southeastern states. Continue reading

Haslam see negative economic impact from Brexit

Fresh from an economic development trip to Ireland that coincided with Britain’s vote to exit the European Union, Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday the decision could have a negative impact on Tennessee.

Further from The Tennessean:

“I’m concerned — I think we have a fairly tenuous international economy, and I think this is one of those things that will be a negative,” Haslam told reporters Monday after making an appearance at the National Charter Schools Conference in Nashville. “Ultimately in Tennessee we’re connected to that same economy, and we hope there’s no eventual repercussions here.”

The United Kingdom is Tennessee’s fourth-largest foreign investor, with 96 companies doing business in the state and nearly 11,000 jobs tied to those investments, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic Development.

The governor pointed out that there were already negative repercussions to the vote last week, highlighting the declining stock market prices. The British pound fell to its lowest value since the 1970s.

“As trade agreements become more tenuous, obviously that puts some of that at risk,” he said.

Haslam said that while traveling in Ireland, along with state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, he discovered that “a lot of members of their parliament” thought the vote would actually go the other way.

Since returning home, Haslam noted there has been “quite a bit of buyer’s remorse.” …”It feels like there are a lot of folks who voted for that who said maybe we were too hasty there,” Haslam said.

Note: The governor’s comments are perhaps something of a contrast with those of U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who has been backing Donald Trump’s view that the Brexit vote was a good thing. Previous post HERE.

Blackburn renews push for ban on Syrian refugees

U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday to make another push for a temporary ban on resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, reports WPLN. She cited the recent Orlando murders in her speech.

Blackburn has co-sponsored a measure with fellow Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais that would cut off all funding for resettlement until Congress has approved the Obama administration’s plans.

The shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre was born and raised in the United States; his parents were immigrants from Afghanistan. Authorities also say they have not found any evidence he was in contact with Islamic State, even though he’s reported to have declared his allegiance with the group.

Still, Blackburn says the case suggests Syrians shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S.

That’s because Omar Mateen was twice investigated by federal authorities based on tips he might become violent, but they found nothing.

“This reveals vetting is nearly impossible,” Blackburn says, “and it is one of the reasons … that we need to halt the migration of Syrian refugees until a proper process is in place.”

Supporters of refugee resettlement counter by arguing the process is already tough enough, frequently taking years to complete.

They also argue that it’s rare for a refugee to get involved in extremism.

More often it has been someone who was reared in the U.S. — like Mateen — that carries out an attack.

Bob Corker meets the Dalai Lama


News release from Sen. Bob Corker’s office
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile.

“We were honored to welcome the Dalai Lama and Dr. Lobsang Sangay for a discussion about issues important to the U.S. and the people of Tibet,” said Corker. “At a time when our country is grappling with an increasingly unstable and uncertain world, we are inspired by his universal message, which reflects many of our own deeply-held values.”

Haslam frets about Trump triggering a trade war

Responding to questions after a Knoxville Rotary Club speech, Gov. Bill Haslam said he’s worried that Donald Trump as president could trigger a trade war damaging to the Tennessee economy, reports the News Sentinel.

After a brief talk about state accomplishments, Haslam took questions from the audience and was asked if he had concerns that if Donald Trump were elected president, he might involve the country in a trade war at a time Tennessee and the Knox County economies have extensive economic ties with other countries.

“I’m actually really worried about this,” he said.

Haslam said that within the past few weeks, he wrapped up a trade trip to China, South Korea and Japan and those he spoke with had the same question: “Tell us, does Donald Trump mean what he says?”

Haslam said that, next to California, Tennessee is Japan’s largest U.S. trading partner. Tennessee tends to export 25 percent more goods to countries with which it has trade agreements, he said.

It is not realistic to think America can be a completely self-sufficient nation, Haslam said. “And, if you like that thought, then just be prepared for everything you pay for to cost a lot more.”

Placing tariffs on foreign goods will just bring tariffs on local goods, he said.

Haslam: Asian executives anxious over U.S. presidential race

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday that the U.S. presidential race is weighing heavily on the minds of executives that he met with on a recently concluded trade mission to Asia.

Haslam told reporters in a conference that he and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd met with about 250 business leaders during the trip to South Korea, China and Japan.

“In every country, we got asked about the presidential election pretty frequently,” Haslam said. “There is a high degree of concern in Asia about how the U.S. sees its role in the world going forward.

“I’d say there was a high degree of anxiety,” he said.

The governor said those concerns include questions about the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that has been criticized by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Continue reading

Haslam, Boyd headed for China, Korea and Japan

News release from Department of Economic and Community Development
NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd will travel to Asia on an economic development trip focused on increasing foreign direct investment opportunities specifically related to the automotive, high tech and advanced manufacturing sectors.

The 10-day business trip is scheduled from Monday, May 2 to Wednesday, May 11 and will include stops in Korea, China and Japan. Haslam and Boyd will meet with executives of existing Tennessee businesses as well as work to expand relationships between Tennessee and Asian business communities.
Continue reading

Trump speech gets praise from Corker, ‘snickering and scorn’ elsewhere

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker praised Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech on Wednesday night, calling it a “great step in the right direction,” reports Politico.

Speaking to MSNBC host Chris Matthews on his program “Hardball,” the Tennessee Republican said that Trump’s remarks, delivered at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel earlier in the day, were “full of substance” and he was “very pleased” with what he heard.

“If you look at the broadness, the vision, I thought it was a major step forward,” Corker said.
Corker also released a written statement urging the billionaire front-runner to be more specific in outlining his new “coherent” vision for America if elected president.

“I look forward to hearing more details, but in a year where angry rhetoric has defined the presidential race on both sides of the aisle, it is my hope that candidates in both parties will begin focusing not only on the problems we face but on solutions,” Corker wrote shortly after Trump spoke.

Other foreign policy hands in both parties were more critical, arguing that Trump’s comments about trade with China and combating the Islamic State in the Middle East lacked specific policy prescriptions and showed dangerous incoherence.

Note: A separate Politico story reports Trump’s speech did not get rave reviews from others involved in foreign policy. It begins thusly:

In his address to an elite, invitation-only Washington foreign policy audience Wednesday, Donald Trump promised that, as president, he would restore a “coherent” vision to America’s role in the world.

But across the ideological spectrum, and even among natural allies, Trump’s speech received a failing grade for coherence and drew snickering and scorn from foreign policy insiders who remain unconvinced that Trump is up to the job.

“It struck me as a very odd mishmash,” said Doug Bandow, a foreign policy scholar at the libertarian Cato Institute, who shares many of Trump’s beliefs about scaling back America’s role abroad. “He called for a new foreign policy strategy, but you don’t really get the sense he gave one.

New TN law on international gun treaties gets WSJ attention

While it didn’t get a lot of attention within the state, the Wall Street Journal has noticed “a new gun-rights law enacted in Tennessee prohibits the state from enforcing any limits on firearms imposed by international law and treaties.”

The measure is SB2395, sponsored by Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, and Rep. John Mark Windle, D-Livingston. It passed the House 88-2 last month and the Senate approved 27-0 on April 7. Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law on Tuesday.

(W)hether it will have any impact on guns in Tennessee is an open question.

The Tennessee statute “rests on a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine,” writes Michael Boldin, executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, which advocates for states’ rights and supported the measure.

The anti-commandeering doctrine, extending from Tenth Amendment and shaped by the late Justice Antonin Scalia in one of his most significant opinions, restrains the federal government from compelling state legislatures and state officers to enforce federal laws. (Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has been a vocal critic of the doctrine, calling it a “judge-made rule.”)

A fiscal memo attached to the Tennessee legislation speculates on its impact. “The frequency of any such future international law or treaty regulating the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories in Tennessee, not otherwise required by state or federal, is assumed to be relatively infrequent,” it states.

Mr. Boldin says such a scenario isn’t that far-fetched, pointing to the small-arms regulations within the Arms Trade Treaty approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. The treaty, signed by Secretary of State John Kerry but never ratified by the Senate, drew objections from the National Rifle Association.