Tales from the Trail

from Summit Notebook:

Berman: House may be “lame” after elections but won’t be paralyzed

The chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs hasn't lost his sense of humor...yet.

USA/Representative Howard Berman said he has been struggling for 24 years to get Congress to ease up on travel restrictions for Americans who want to go to Cuba. He's determined to get it through his committee this year, even if it doesn't happen until after the November election when the lawmakers are in "lame duck" session.

"We're lame but we're not paralyzed," he told the Reuters Washington Summit when asked if it was possible to still get bills out of committee and to the full House for a vote during the time between the November election and the beginning of the new session in January.

Berman said he does not want to bring the topic up for a vote until he knows it can pass. So far, that is apparently not the case.

Though he could joke about the lame duck session he got in a few digs about the conservative Tea Party movement and then fiercely defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

U.S. lawmakers wonder, where did our love go? with Turkey

It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington’s long-time NATO ally Turkey.

“How do we get Turkey back?” demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring “Turkey’s New Foreign Policy Direction.”

“Why is Turkish public opinion … perhaps one of the most anti-American of any of the countries of the world?” asked the committee’s chairman, Representative Howard Berman.

Qat joins al Qaeda as Yemen threat

YEMEN-QAT/U.S. lawmakers, convening a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the threat posed by al Qaeda in Yemen, found themselves focused on another problem stalking the impoverished Arab country:  the mild drug qat, which permeates Yemeni society.

Rep.  Howard Berman, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, launched the discussion of Yemen’s drug problem in his opening remarks, noting that qat was “a narcotic plant that produces feelings of euphoria and stimulation, but ultimately undermines individual initiative — sort of like being in Congress.”

Berman noted that many people chew qat regularly  in Yemen — pushed close to the top of the U.S. security watchlist after the Christmas Day bombing attempt on a U.S. airliner by a Nigerian with Yemeni links  –  and that cultivation of the drug consumes about 40 percent of Yemen’s fast diminishing agricultural water supplies.