Monday, April 24, 2006

Senate Live - April 24, 2006

Senator Reid is off on a criticism of Frist's priorities. In particular, reduction of estate taxes, flag burning, or gay marriage.

He fronts gas prices as the primary issue, with immigration, war in Iraq, homeland security, and education being more worthy subjects.

With regard to Iraq, brings up that this war has cost more than WWII. Hitting on windfall profits tax from evil oil companies.

The usual laundry list - and Reid adds in stem cell research, as the House passed a measure over a year ago. He notes correctly that Senator Frist supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

Reid says, "President Bush likes to point fingers on immigration" (a reference to Bush fingering Reid for stalling the bill two weeks ago). Reid says that the bill was stalled by a minority of GOP Senators. So, it seems we're picking up right where we left off a couple weeks ago.

He calls on President Bush to lead the party - what does the President want to do with guest workers? What does he want to do with the border? What do we do with the 12 million? The President has not taken a specific plan on these points.

Update: President Bush talked about immigration today, in Irvine, California. Here is part of his speech:

Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic. It's just not going to work. You can hear people out there hollering it's going to work. It's not going to work. It just -- and so therefore, what do we do with people who are here? And this is one of the really important questions Congress is going to have to deal with.

I thought the Senate had an interesting approach by saying that if you've been here for five years or less, you're treated one way, and five years or more, you're treated another. It's just an interesting concept that people need to think through about what to do with people that have been here for quite a period of time.

Now, my attitude is this: I think that people ought to be, obviously, here to work on a temporary basis. The definition of temporary will be decided in the halls of Congress.

Secondly, I believe that a person should never be granted automatic citizenship. And let me tell you why I believe that, that if you've been here -- broken the law and have been here working, that it doesn't seem fair to me to say you're automatically a citizen when somebody who has been here legally working is standing in line trying to become a citizen, as well. In other words, there's the line for people. (Applause.)

But what I do think makes sense is that a person ought to be allowed to get in line. In other words, pay a penalty for being here illegally, commit him or herself to learn English, which is part of the American system -- (applause) -- and get in the back of the line. In other words, there is a -- there is a line of people waiting to become legal through the green card process. And it's by nationality. And if you're a citizen here who has been here illegally, you pay a penalty, you learn English, and you get in line, but at the back -- not the front. And if Congress wants a shorter line for a particular nationality, they increase the number of green cards. If they want a longer line, they shrink the number of green cards per nationality.

This is an important debate for the American citizens to conduct. It's a debate that requires clear rational thought, and it's really important for those of us in positions of responsibility to remember that we're a nation of law, a welcoming nation, a nation that honors people's traditions no matter where they're from because we've got confidence in the capacity of our nation to make us all Americans, one nation under God.

Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Well, Senator Reid, I think you won't be getting any public policy guidance from the White House.

Finally, says Reid, on taxes - the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being squeezed. What about tax relief for the middle class? Wants to fix the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Now up, Senator Byrd. Talking about the "cooling saucer" metaphor for the Senate. Describing the original use of the analogy (Francis Lieber), and regardless of whether or not the story is true, it conveys the essence of the Senate. The Senate is a deliberative body - deliberative. He notes the US Senate is the most powerful deliberative body in the world - no wonder they have such high opinions of themselves.

Byrd says he plans to offer a series of addresses over the next few months, with explanations of each observer - ideas of the founders, particularly noting the role of the Senate in our government. I think that will be a very interesting set of talks, and I look forward to hearing him speak on the subject.

As a brief aside, I have a serious disagreement with his contention that the Senate is free to impose a supermajority hurdle for advise and consent - but otherwise, he has a good handle on the function of the Senate, as well as on the balance of powers under the Constitution.

Back to Byrd's talk, he notes that deliberations in the Senate, slow deliberations, have frustrated (he laughs) impatient presidents. "Who cares" he says. Presidents come and go, but Senators go on and on. His general point is the value of deliberation, that an attitude of "get it done now" can lead to trouble. Not only can presidents be frustrated, so can Senate leadership.

He notes that the Senate is nominally the same body now that it was at the formation of our Republic. The Senate can send the President home, via trial of impeachment. Hmm. Is that a threat? or a friendly political warning? Byrd chuckled at the "send you home" comment.

He concludes that the Senate retains it's form and method of operation because those objects serve a purpose, and with that, he yields the floor and notes the absence of a quorum.

I'm wondering, at this lull, which GOP Senator will come to rebut Reid.

No GOP Senator, this is Wyden. He is using "Katrina/Rita bungle" as a parallel to $3.00 a gallon gasoline. His contention seems to be that the price of fuel could be seen coming, Iraq production is at tits lowest point in a decade, Iran makes war/nuke noises, and Venezuela is planning to cut output. But even with all of this turmoil, the Energy Department and Commodities Futures Trading Commission are AWOL. Nobody is home minding the store when it comes to our gasoline markets.

How expertise in watching markets somehow translates to power to reduce price is eluding my grasp. Wyden notes the change over to summer blend causes disruption to supply, and the administration should have seen the confluence of external factors (Iraq/Iran/Venezuela) with the internals (boutique fuels); and could have acted to ease this. I'm still waiting to hear the "how." Would this entail a relaxing of emissions levels? Elimination of oxygenated blends? Or just rhetoric advising consumers to conserve?

Ahhh - his solution: the administration should have called on the National Petroleum Council to seek advice on alleviating shortages/price spikes today (how could they impact Iran's saber rattling? Iraq's production? Increased insurance for freighters to offset risk of at-sea terrorism?), but, goes on Senator Wyden, the administration doesn't solicit advice, let alone take it - preferring instead to act on its own.

Wyden is now attacking the futures and other speculative markets. He says that the current per barrel price is $20 higher based solely on speculation. Wow. Evidence for that? That's a big manipulation, and would be worldwide in nature. Wyden goes back to trader profits in the wake of hurricane Katrina.

If anybody has research to substantiate shady trading at that time, I'd sure like to review it.

I missed Lamar Alexander's speech, it seemed to be focused on a particular Bill.

Mitch McConnell notes the good news from Iraq, the election of leadership that has the power and ability to form a functioning government. The cabinet still remains to be filled, but top leadership is in place. Senator McConnell notes this is bad news for terrorists, and will tend to stabilize the Middle East, and make the region more secure. He gives a hat tip to Condolezza Rice in breaking the log jam, and Khaliazad. "As we celebrate the victory in Iraq, we are mindful there is much hard work ahead."

Schedule for April 25

Open at 9:45, leader time and one hour of morning business, with the first 30 minutes to the GOP, and the second 30 minutes to the DEMs. 10 minutes of "debate," 5 for each Senator from Texas, before voting on the confirmation of Miller (calendar No. 602) for a Federal District Court appointment.

A bit of background, before moving on to action after the confirmation vote of Miller ... S.2612, Hagel's A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform, has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

S.2603, a bill to reduce temporarily the royalty required to be paid for sodium produced on Federal lands was placed on the calendar - seems routine to me, but I'm not in the sodium mining business.

S.2611 was also placed on the calendar. It is related to S.2612, and this description (not mine) may clarify the intended function of having two immigration bills.

S. 2611 and S. 2612 reflect the Hagel-Martinez compromise modifying the Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration reform bill plus a variety of new provisions (including some of the amendments that were pending when the bill was pulled from the Floor by Senator Frist). Though the bills are identical in content except for the order of the sponsors, S. 2611 and S. 2612 would be subject to different procedural paths. The bill with Specter as the lead sponsor could be treated as a new bill that could be marked up in the Judiciary Committee once again. The bill with Hagel and Martinez as the lead sponsors could be brought straight to the Senate Floor under Rule 14.

AILA - Track Legislation & Congress

Again, one of these two bills was referred to Judiciary Committee, and the other is placed on the Senate's legislative calendar.

Debate tomorrow is to be on H.R.4939, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations. Appropriations are usually a venue for some spirited debate, and any issue is apt to be inserted. The President's views on the pending legislation can be found here [], and cover the issues of:

  • Funding for security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Debt forgiveness to Afghanistan
  • Hurricane reconstruction in Louisiana
  • Funding for information technology resources for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Senator Specter just spoke, praising a judge (Edward Becker), and also bringing up stem cell research.

Senator Inhofe up, criticizing the media for misrepresenting events in Iraq. Just before that, he congratulated Specter for success in obtaining votes on judicial nominations - to that I say "Huh? Plenty bottled up and not acted on!"

Senator Inhofe now rebutting Reid. Three reasons for high energy prices:

  • Refineries offline from hurricane damage
  • Market participation and speculation in order to protect supply
  • Conversion from MTBE to ethanol as oxygenate

Charge that refiners are deliberately running under capacity is false. Inhofe attributes the comments to a Senator from New York - if that is accurate, I obviously missed Schumer (or Clinton) earlier today.

Inhofe also points out that DEMs object to ANWR drilling, offshore drilling and tax incentives that encourage marginal production as well as refining. Likewise, DEMs vote party line against nuclear energy. DEMs are clearly responsible for stifling production rate. And with that he yields the floor, and the Senate stands adjourned.

And now - extended remarks for the day's record ...


S. 2630. A bill to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit manipulation of caller identification information; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. ... let me give you a few shocking examples of how caller ID spoofing has been exploited in recent months: In one dangerous hoax, a sharp-shooting SWAT team was forced to shut down a neighborhood in New Brunswick, NJ, after receiving what they believed was a legitimate distress call. But what really had happened was that the caller used spoofing to trick law enforcement into thinking the emergency call was coming from a certain apartment in that neighborhood. It was all a cruel trick perpetrated with a deceptive phone number.

In another example, a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives was the victim of a sophisticated spoofing plot. It appears that fraudsters placed thousands of spoofed calls to the Member's constituents. In each case, the fraudster made it look like the phone call was dialed from the Member's office, and in each case the fraudster bad-mouthed the Member to the constituent on the other end of the line. The Member found out about this after his congressional office got angry phone calls from constituents. [Now I have to admit, this one made me laugh]

In yet another instance, identity thieves bought stolen credit card numbers. They then called Western Union, set up caller I.D. to make it look like the call originated from the card holder's name, and used the credit card number to order cash transfers, which the identity thieves then picked up. ...

Senator Snowe and I don't intend to ban all caller I.D. spoofing. Instead, our bill recognizes that there are legitimate law enforcement uses for spoofing. [Of course]


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