Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Navy Yard Tragedy
On September 16, Aaron Alexis, a lone shooter, opened fire at the U.S. Navy Yard in Washington, DC. His attack resulted in 13 deaths, including his own, and eight injuries. Alexis was a former Navy reservist turned contractor with a security clearance that allowed him access to the military installation, despite reportedly having had several previous incidences involving firearms according to civilian police reports. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has primary responsibility for the investigation.
In light of this tragedy and the leak of classified National Security Agency documents by Edward Snowden, Members of Congress are questioning the security clearance process that granted clearances to people like Alexis and Snowden. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) indicated last week that he may add language to modernize the clearance process in the committee-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (S.1197). Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight Chair Claire McCaskill (D-MO) also urged a “top to bottom overhaul” of the security clearance process. It is expected both chambers will hold congressional hearings on the tragedy and the current security clearance process.
On Friday, September 20, the House voted 230-189 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until December 15. The House CR includes provisions to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Senate could spend the bulk of this week amending the House CR. The House recess planned for this week was cancelled in anticipation that the two chambers may need to conference over their respective versions of the CR. In a warning to House Republicans, President Barack Obama said he will veto any CR that seeks to defund the ACA.
The United Nations released its inspectors’ report on the August 21 attack in Syria. The report did not place responsibility on any one side but clearly determined chemical weapons had been used. Secretary of State John Kerry said the report offered “crucial details” that make the case implicating al-Assad “only … more compelling.” Syria and Russia countered that the Syrian rebels were responsible.
Ahead of the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly meeting, Secretary Kerry advocated for international action in Syria, saying
“the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to act.”
The U.N. Security Council met on Thursday, September 19 to discuss a resolution on Syria. The United States, Britain and France are advocating for the inclusion of language that threatens military action to ensure the Assad regime relinquishes its chemical weapons stockpiles to international control. Russian officials remain opposed to any wording in a resolution that could trigger the use of force.