Friday, June 09, 2006

Senate Live - June 9, 2006

The senate will open at 9:30 AM for morning business, almost all day. No legislation is on the calendar for today, and no votes are scehduled for today or Monday.

The first vote for next week is to be voting cloture on the nomination of Stikler as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, with the cloture vote scheduled for 3:30 Tuesday after one hour of debate.

Seeing as how Senate business will be sparse today, and I'm certainly going to be away, I'll post material relating to upcoming legislation. The three pieces touched on here will be the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, and the conflict between Senator Specter and Vice President Cheney regarding administrative secrecy on various NSA programs.

We're still awaiting agreement on the vehicle for taking S.2611, the comprehensive immigration reform bill, into conference committee so it can be reconciled with H.R.4437. Perhaps that open issue will be resolved sometime today. I won't be holding my breath.

Conference report H. Rept. 109-494 was filed on June 8, relating to H.R.4939 - Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Hurricane Recovery, 2006.

The AP report, Iraq War, Hurricane Funding Deal Reached, indicates that the conferees pared some of the fat out of the bill, and that "GOP leaders overcame the last snag to agreement - insistence by two Senate GOP moderates that the bill include a promise to increase future spending on education and health programs - by winning endorsement from Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii."

I have to laugh at that, "GOP moderates," big spenders - heck, it was Senator Lott who wanted to add 700 million dollars to pay CSX to move a rail line and I doubt he's properly referred to as a "GOP moderate."

The conference report will be taken up by the Senate sometime next week, and GOP leadership may announce specific timing sometime today.

Regarding S.2766 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, below are links to the Senate and House reports, and just a few of the descriptions contained in the Senate Report.

Senate Report 109-254 [PDF format] -- HTML Format
House Report 109-452 [PDF format] -- HTML Format


Shipboard system component development

The budget request included $14.1 million in PE 63513N for shipboard system component development, including $7.1 million for the development of integrated power systems, but included no funding for the high temperature superconductor alternating current (HTS-AC) synchronous marine propulsion motor development, Smart Valve development, or for gas turbine electric start system technology upgrade.

A 36.5 megawatt prototype HTS-AC synchronous propulsion motor will be delivered to the Navy in fiscal year 2006. Design of a fully militarized motor, specifically for DD(X), will commence in 2006. Additional funding is required in fiscal year 2007 to support full power testing of the prototype motor, and to complete the preliminary design for militarization of the HTS-AC motor for potential application to a future surface combatant. The committee recommends an increase of $6.0 million in PE 63513N for the continued development of the HTS-AC synchronous marine propulsion motor.


Directed energy and electric weapon systems

The budget request included $41.7 million funding in PE 61153N, PE 62114N, and PE 63114N, for directed energy technology and continued development of an electromagnetic rail gun (EMRG). Progress with these developments, in conjunction with the Navy's programmed introduction of ship integrated power systems, has established a foundation for fielding shipboard directed energy and electric weapon systems.

The Chief of Naval Operations has noted that the EMRG would provide an extremely long range and persistent volume of fire, significantly improving naval gunfire support for forces ashore.


The committee is further concerned that, for the first time in more than 50 years, the United States is not actively engaged in the design of a new class of nuclear submarine. The current Navy schedule to initiate the next generation submarine platform design causes a significant gap in the design and engineering industrial workload such that the industrial base will not likely be able to preserve the critical skills and capabilities needed for this effort.

The reports are full of interesting material. Representative McKinney's "additional views" in the House Report are also worth the time to review. Not that I agree with the positions she takes, just that it's good to know opposition rationales. Coincidentally, this is the report where Speaker Hastert excoriated McKinney for including autopsy photographs (all bones). I mention this only to make the connection, not because those pictures are interesting in any way. The HTML version of the report does not link to any graphics, and McKinney's point relating to US activity in Columbia is well made without the photographs.

With regard to the conflict between Senator Specter and Vice President Cheney over NSA activities, this article at the Jurist provides a concise summary and historical perspective.

Specter's June 7 letter
Cheney's June 8 response

Fairly quick reading all around, and I don't have anything to add other than pointing out that the conflict illuminates all sorts of fun stuff, from intramural maneuvering between Senators (Hatch and Specter in particular) to high-stakes Constitutional balance of powers.

From The Washington Post, Specter Offers Compromise on NSA Surveillance describes the legislative approach that Senator Specter is now inclined to advocate with regard to the NSA terrorist surveillance program. The article also describes Senator Feinstein's objections to Specter's proposal.


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