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    Iran Sanctions Bill Markup

    The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee met to mark up legislation that would impose new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program if negotiators fail to reach a nuclear agreement by the June 30, 2015, deadline. Committee members approved the bill by a vote of 18-4.

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    Trade Policy

    U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to answer questions on President Obama’s trade policy agenda. Much of the discussion focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which at the time of this hearing was being negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other Asian-Pacific nations. Other topics included a proposal for renewing trade promotion authority which would grant President Obama broad authority to negotiate trade agreements with just an up or down vote by Congress. Mr. Froman’s opening statement was interrupted by a group of protestors who voiced their objections to the pending TPP agreement.

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    Jobs and the Economy

    Former Michigan Governor John Engler and two economics professors testified on the state of the economy and unemployment. They said the economy was stronger, but slow growth and unemployment remained problems. They proposed Increased spending on infrastructure and education, and tax code reform.

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    Iran Nuclear Negotiations

    Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Undersecretary of State David Cohen testified on negotiations with Iran over its nuclear arms program. Members focused on the status of the talks, the role Congress should play, and whether new sanctions should be imposed on Iran while the negotiations continue.

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    Senate Ceremonial Swearing-In

    Vice President Biden held a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony with newly-elected and re-elected senators. The event happens at the start of each Congress in the Old Senate Chamber. The official swearing-in ceremony took place earlier in the Senate chambers on the opening day of the 114th Congress.

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    Foreign Relations Legislation Markup

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to mark up a bill that would authorize limited military force against ISIS for three years. It also permits the use of ground forces in certain situations such as protecting U.S. citizens from “imminent danger,” for operations against “high value targets,” or to conduct intelligence operations. The legislation was approved by the committee by a 10-8 vote, with most Democrats voting in favor and Republicans against. 

    The panel also considered the nomination of Tony Blinken as deputy secretary of state.

    * The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

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    Criminal Justice and Policing Practices

    The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Rights held a hearing on criminal justice and policing practices after recent protests around the country in the wake of deaths of unarmed black men. Witnesses discussed the Fair Sentencing Act, efforts to reform sentencing guidelines, and restoring federal voting rights for ex-convicts. The first panel of black legislators included Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Keith Ellison (D-MN). Senator Booker called the criminal justice system “woefully biased” against minorities. The second panel of law enforcement and civil rights officials agreed that the movement across the country was in response to the disconnect minorities feel with policing tactics and the criminal justice system as a whole. Democratic senators talked about the Death in Police Custody Act which would record the number of deaths of suspects in police custody.

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    Use of Military Force Against ISIL

    Secretary of State John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the use of military force against so-called Islamic State* militants. Secretary Kerry said a new congressional authorization for use of military force (AUMF) against the ISIL should not be limited to Iraq and Syria nor should it bind President Obama from ever deploying ground troops against ISIL if needed.

    *The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist Sunni militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

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    Politics and Foreign Policy

    Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) talked about U.S. foreign policy issues. Topics included the fight against *ISIS, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Iran and its nuclear program, and National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. 

    “The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy” was part of the Wall St. Journal CEO Council annual meeting.

    * The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

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    Domestic Violence and Sports

    Representatives of the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, along with representatives from the players' associations for those leagues testified on what the leagues were doing to address issues of domestic violence and professional athletes.