Friday, September 29, 2006

Senate Preview - Week of September 25, 2006

STATUS as of 8:10 AM, Oct 2

Added reference to passage of the Online Gambling Prohibition Act under H.R.4954. Corrections and additions, H.R.5122 and H.R.6198 shifted from "not yet passed" to "passed."

NOMINATIONS RETURNED

Returned COA judicial nominees: Boyle, Haynes, Myers, Smith, Wallace, KEISLER
Also returned was BOLTON, to be Ambassador to the UN.
Also returned was Stickler, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety & Health.

SENATE IS IN RECESS

H.Con.Res.483 Senate adjourned at 2:30 AM, Saturday, September 30.

Signing Statement by the President on H.R. 5631, DoD Appropriations Act, 2007, is quite interesting. I linked to it in my summary of Senate action on the bill and interspersed statutory language with the paragraphs of the signing statement. Just raw material, no analysis or commentary.


Sept 25 - 15:30

According to Tim Curran of Roll Call, Senate leadership (Frist) plans to finish work on the following measures this week. Note absence of fence-only bill.

Senator Sessions discussed the fence-only bill, and most of my running commentary on the fence-only bill will be at the end of this post. But I can't resist making a prediction here. I predict confusion in the nature of "What's with two cloture motions? The first one passed!" if a cloture motion is filed to vote on the underlying bill.

  • Conference report on H.R.5122 (S.2766) - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (House-Senate Disagreement Could Halt Defense Bill - 060925. The House is insisting on adding the language of its H.R.6094 - The Community Protection Act) (Senate Agreed with Conference Report 109-702 - without the language of H.R.6094 - The Community Protection Act)
    PASSED by unanimous consent early morning of Sept 30
  • H.R.6198 - Iran Freedom Support Act
    PASSED by unanimous consent early morning of Sept 30
  • Conference Report on H.R.4954 - [Sea]Port Security Improvement Act of 2006
    PASSED by unanimous consent early morning of Sept 30
  • Conference report on H.R.5441 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007 (See Senate Live July 13, 2006 and earlier for summary of debate and issues - July 10 includes discussion of legislation for military tribunals)
    PASSED by voice vote after 11:15 PM Sept 29
  • S.403 - to prohibit taking minors across State lines in circumvention of laws requiring the involvement of parents in abortion decisions (returned from House, cloture motion to vote on concur with the house filed 9/27, cloture vote on 9/29)
    CLOTURE MOTION REJECTED 57-42 at 10:20 PM Sept 29
  • H.R.6061 - The Secure Fence Act of 2006 - was temporarily hijacked to be a vehicle for military tribunals. Military tribunals was later taken off this bill. Cloture motion for voting on the fence bill passed on 9/28
    PASSED 80-19 at 9:59 PM Sept 29
  • Conference Report on H.R.5631 - Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2007
    PASSED 100-0 at 10:41 AM Sept 29
  • S.3930 - Military Commissions Act of 2006 [McConnell, Frist, Warner] (consideration was initially undertaken via S.Amdt.5036 to H.R.6061 - The Secure Fence Act of 2006, then moved to this bill on 9/27)
    PASSED 65-34 at 7:04 PM Sept 28

---===---

The military commissions and NSA wiretapping may be taken up "in combination," in the form of S.3929, which is exactly the concatenation of S.3930 and S.3931.

I plan to prepare separate posts for some of the major bills above.

My running commentary has been tacked to each of the following:

H.R.6061 - The Secure Fence Act of 2006
Senator Specter on Legal Process for Detainees (habeas)
Interrogation Techniques : S.3861 vs. S.3901
Establishing Military Commissions

This week promises to be an exciting whirlwind. You'll pardon me if I pause just to marvel at the intensity of it all.

UPDATE @ 18:18

The nomination of Francisco Besosa to be a United States District Judge for the District of Puerto Rico was
PASSED on a 87 - 0 vote.

Frist calls for a time of morning business, then makes a quorum call.

UPDATE @ 19:10

Senator Frist filed cloture motions on H.R.6061 - fence only, and on "the Hamdan Language," a reference to either S.3929 or S.3930, I don't know which because I was outdoors playing.

1st degree amendments can be filed until 1PM tomorrow. Cloture votes Wednesday morning, or earlier if unanimous consent can be reached.


UPDATE @ Sep 26

Turns out that what I missed last evening was the wholesale importation of the Military Commissions Bill to the fence-only bill as an amendment, so the two matters are now co-pending under the same bill number!

Another tidbit that may or may not be on the calendar for this week (I don't know whether or not negotiations with the People's Republic of China regarding China's undervalued currency have been successful), here is a months-old unanimous consent agreement:

6.--Ordered, That the Majority Leader, after consultation with the Democratic Leader, shall no later than September 29, 2006, or the last day of the second session of the 109th Congress, whichever is earliest, call up S. 295, a bill to authorize appropriate action if the negotiations with the People's Republic of China regarding China's undervalued currency are not successful; provided that if the bill has not been reported by then by the Committee on Finance it be discharged at that time and the Senate proceed to the consideration thereof; that there be 2 hours for debate equally divided between the Senator from Iowa (Mr. Grassley) and the Democratic Leader, or his designee, that no amendments or motions be in order, including committee amendments, that after the use or yielding back of time, the bill be read a third time and the Senate proceed to a vote on passage of the bill, with no intervening action or debate. (July 1, 2005, Mar. 29, 2006.)

---===---

September 28 Action
A unanimous-consent agreement was reached providing that the orders of July 1, 2005 and March 29, 2006, with respect to S.295, to authorize appropriate action in the negotiations with the People's Republic of China regarding China's undervalued currency are not successful, be vitiated.

UPDATE @ 11:20

Miscellaneous stuff coming up, Enzi's health care insurance bill, S.1955 for example, and H.R.5970 - Minimum Wage and Estate Tax Act of 2006 (trifecta - Family Prosperity Act) DEMs objected to passing this - but they did call for further debate, having rejected the cloture motion at 22:08 on Aug 3rd. I predict the AMT extender part of this bill will pass this week. The GOP will sacrifice the estate tax and minimum wage aspects, because the AMT extenders are important not only to the DEM constituency, but also to a significant fraction of the GOP constituency.

UPDATE @ 11:50

Senator Landrieu's pet project of the day is drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Note that a contentious part of the proposed legislation involves royalties payable directly to the states that border the Gulf of Mexico.

UPDATE @ 16:20

AP reports Congress Unlikely to Pass Wiretapping and Part of Bush's Anti-Terror Plan Stalled. Carry one of the items from the original list over to the lame-duck session?


UPDATE @ Sep 27

Military Tribunals shifted to a stand-alone proposition under S.3930, which will pass on a fundamentally partisan basis. The fence-only bill has been set aside.

S.403 - Child Custody Protection Act, is the subject of a cloture motion. I'm not clear on whether the cloture motion is to "take up," or to "vote on passage." [Page S10346: move to bring to a close debate on the motion to concur in the House amendment to S. 403:]


UPDATE @ Sept 28, 20:19

Senator Enzi discloses that 5 Senators, from NY, NJ and California, are blocking S.2823 - Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. He brought this up at 16:55 on Tuesday, September 26. Hmmm. Clinton, Schumer, Lautenberg, Menendez, Boxer and Feinstein. Which one to strike?

At 20:28, objection is heard. Dayton supports the legislation, notes that 14 states would lose funding - but he doesn't object because his state doesn't lose funding. He also raises the question of the need for additional funding. Senator Enzi addresses the question of payment to states by reference to "Older Americans Act" which has a similar formula. He also asserts that NJ, NY and California are presently being grossly overpaid.

Funny exchange between Allen (in the chair) who wants an answer to "is their objection" and Enzi, who is properly saying he is answering questions and thereby keeps the (foregone) objection from maturing.

Senator/Doctor Coburn says that objecting to this bill, because your state is getting an overpayment that it wants to keep, while people are dying because the bill isn't being passed, is "obscene." It is "unconscionable" that the objecting Senators won't step up and publicly defend their objections. He points out that 4 conservative Senators are the biggest defenders of getting funding for HIV/Aids patients.

Transcript of the debate

Thursday the 28th - 21:40
My massaged notes of the schedule according to Senator Frist ...

 - H.R.5631 conference report vote at 10:00 Friday
 - H.R.6198 ILSA - will ask for UC to consider and vote on Friday (Iran)
 - H.R.6061 border fence 71-28 cloture vote, indicates a level of support 
            that justifies expediting vote on border fence bill
            (he wants agreement to limit debate to less than 30 hours and 
            is grinning like cat who ate canary - he knows there won't be 
            agreement)
 - S.403 cloture vote on accepting the House amendment
 - H.R.4959 seaport security
 - nominations
 - US UK extradition treaty
 - energy package 
 - can expect a Saturday session if required to complete the above

UPDATE @ Sept 29

I'll make occasional comments here and maintain the punchlist at the top as I (sort of) track action as the Senate closes down for re-election recess.

UPDATE @ 10:41

Senator Frist tried to get a unanimous consent agreement for time for specified Senators to speak in morning business, a time filler to 12:30 so he and Reid can negotiate the balance of the day. Senator Landrieu asked to be added, and eventually objected to Frist's proposed order. The deal finally struck:

- Byrd 20 minutes [Senate has neglected appropriations bills]
- Santorum 20 minutes [Fence, immigration, and Iran freedom act]
- Feinstein 15 minutes [Push AgJobs amendment to fence bill]
- DeMint 10 minutes [Education Opportunity Act]
- Enzi/Burr 20 Minutes [urgent passage of Bioterroism legislation]
- Landrieu 10 minutes [offshore drilling - lease Area 81]
- Boxer 10 minutes [opposes border fence bill, for AgJobs]
- Craig 10 minutes [Push AgJobs and other immigration amendments]


No Senate Judiciary Committee Action
[Ed Whelan 09/29 11:35 AM]

Unbelievable but true: Today's Senate Judiciary Committee executive session failed to result in any action on the pending circuit-court nominees. ... [lots more, worth a read]

UPDATE @ 12:10

Another bill to add to the "must pass before recess" list. I haven't heard Senator Frist pick this one up yet. Senators Enzi and Burr promoted S.3678 - Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act [Burr] (or S.2564 Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2006 [Burr]), and indicated that Senator Frist might offer it later today. He further said that he anticipated the offer would be met with objection.

Senators Gregg and Coburn each obtain 5 minutes to speak on the same issue, inserting their time between the time allocated to Enzi, and the time allocated to Landrieu.

List of bills held up? Ryan White HIV/AIDS, Pandemic Preparedness Act, "Trifecta," Drought David Relief, AgJobs ... it's a long list.

Senator Landrieu is the one who insisted on getting a speaking spot - and she was late for her own speech. Should have been there at 12:15, showed up at 12:22.

Senator Burr makes a UC request to pass S.2564 - Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2006, and Senator Murray makes a counteroffer UC request on the same subject, using S.3678 - Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act as the starting point, then adding quite a few named amendments, followed by 6 hours of debate. After a brief parliamentary debate (can a UC request be made while another UC request is pending? No. Can a UC request be phrased as a request to modify the pending request? Yes) Murry's counteroffer was rejected, Murry rejected Burr's request. The sides are at loggerheads.

UPDATE @ 12:36

Senator Landrieu pushing the development of oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico, and she explains why she objects to the House version, which includes drilling off the cost of Virginia. Another time filler that may result in a UC request to pass her preferred bill, which (if offered) will be objected to.

Ms. LANDRIEU. ... My bill gives everybody gas.

Added a couple more speakers. Frist and Reid must be having a hard time developing agreement as to how to finish the hours before recess.

- Murray 15 minutes [Senate has neglected appropriations bills]
- Kennedy 15 minutes [various criticism, immigration, Iraq]

UPDATE @ 13:55

Senator Murray says not bringing up the appropriations bills is a failure attributable to Senator Frist. It is, but it's not significant except for the politics that it facilitates. I hold that not bringing up judicial nominees that were on the Executive Calendar was a significant failure.

Senator Craig asks for unanimous consent to extend morning business to 3:30 PM. Yep, trouble in paradise. Lots of things to pass, the clock is ticking. On the upside, more "action" will occur during television prime time.

Senator Hutchison asks to bring up S.3661 - A bill to amend section 29 of the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979 relating to air transportation to and from Love Field, Texas. - passed

S.4001 - a bill to designate some New England land as wilderness. - passed

She brings up a batch of [forty-one] bills to pass en bloc, and Coburn rises to complain, but not lodge a formal objection. This is 4.5 billion dollars that tried to pass in May and July, which Coburn blocked. These are Energy Committee measures. Coburn's objections were reduced to writing then, and are reprinted in the record.

A bit of parliamentary maneuvering relating to the process of "reserving objection" and continuing to speak, with Senator Conrad objecting to Coburn's "reserving the right to object and then talking. Conrad wants to speak. Conrad says either object, or not - the question was "is there objection?"

- Cornyn / Leahy colloquy 5 minutes [Love Field/Wright Amendment]
- Coburn 15 minutes [Pork buried in energy bills]
- Chambliss 10 minutes
- Conrad 30 minutes
- Gregg 10 minutes [progressive tax - DEM v. GOP]
- Dorgan 20 minutes [Iraq]
- Hutchison 15 minutes [Love Field/Wright Amendment]
- Clinton 15 minutes [Ryan White Care Act]
- Chafee 5 minutes [breast cancer]
- Kyl 15 minutes [fence bill]
- Coburn [Rebuts Clinton]
- Byrd [Sarbanes, Jeffords retirement]
- Enzi 45 minutes [Rebuts Clinton in spades]
- Hatch [Rebuts Clinton in spades]
- Hatch [notes willful misinterpretation of the leaked NIE]
- Burr [Rebuts Clinton]

The batch of [forty one] energy bills were passed, and the Senate moves to speeches in the order listed.

UPDATE @ 16:00

Senator Clinton got all defensive about the criticism she's getting over her hold against the Ryan White HIV/AIDs bill. Says her state has been impugned by comments made last night. As a logical or intellectual matter, her defense is not responsive to the criticism.

She goes on to suggest revisions, which are substantively sound propositions (not that I agree with her proposed solutions, but they aren't wacky) - but her delivery sounds so much of anger that most listeners will overlook her words. She's a true shrew.

16:13 - She moved, prompted by Senator Chafee's speech, for unanimous consent to pass S.757 - Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act. Objection is heard from the GOP. Hillary! turned up the shrill effect in response.

16:29 - Coburn speaks in direct rebuttal to Hillary!s assertions.

16:42 - Byrd more or less gives a thumbs up to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, in his testimonial on the occasion of the retirement of Paul Sarbanes.

17:12 - Byrd/Dayton mutual admiration society is tendering a performance.

17:25 - Coleman says that Dayton's heart is pure, that we live in a time of polarized partisan politics ... golly, I generally appreciate recognition of a separation between honest difference of opinion and argument based on hate; but I wish these jokers put more effort into logically sound debate, and would skip the public displays of affection.

17:28 - Enzi has 45 minutes. He enters a number of items into the record, including a colloquy between himself, Boxer and Kennedy on the Ryan White AIDS/HIV bill, and he proceeds to deconstruct Hillary!s crappy argument for maintaining a hold.

17:54 - Off topic, but I'm compelled to share this ...

Belgian privacy commission finds against SWIFT

Belgium's Commission for the Protection of Privacy has concluded that SWIFT's transfer of data to the U.S. Treasury - a terrorism-related program brought to widespread public attention by a New York Times article in June 2006 (there is a debate about the extent to which the program previously had been disclosed publicly) - violated Belgian privacy law.

So the NYT article disclosed (and effectively shut down the usefulness of) a secret data sharing activity that was later found to be illegal. Quite the conundrum between "useful" and "illegal," and who gets to assign the labels - as well as how attaching the label "illegal" to the data sharing might affect prosecution of the "illegal leaker" and the NYT for publishing the fact that the secret program exist(s/ed).

18:02 - Senator Hatch is unloading on the Senators who are blocking the Ryan White bill.

18:06 - Senator Hatch is now unloading on the recent leak of a NIE, and the resulting politicization via cherry-picking statements in that NIE.

18:25 - an extension of morning business. Agreed speeches:

- Dayton [rejects the fence-only bill, but thinks it will pass]
- Lautenberg [supports Clinton's position on Ryan White Act]
- Hutchison 15 minutes [didn't speak - bubu in UC agreement]
- Grassley 20 minutes [Tax "trailer" and estate tax]
- Baucus 15 minutes [AMT extension - tax "trailers"]
- Murray [veterans care]
- Chambliss 10 [agricultural disaster relief]
- Harkin 10 [criticizing Dept. of Education]
- Craig 10 [WWII - memorials to Glenn Ford and Joe Rosenthal]
- Menendez 15 [Ryan White - send $$$ to NJ]
- Enzi 15 [Ryan White redeaux]
- Landrieu 15 [Levees, locks, "water resources"/drilling]
- GOP 15 [time yielded back]
- Salazar 15 [urges opposition to the fence bill]
- GOP 15 [time yielded back]
- Lautenberg

18:40 - I'm getting the feeling that S.2823 - Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act, is the pending business of the Senate. It's not, but the speeches seem focused on it.

18:47 - Grassley will explain why AMT tax relief and estate tax are DOA. He blames political calculations on both sides - failure of leadership - the better obstructer wins! Vote for the guy who hurts you the least! And watch out as both sides ratchet up the hurt.

I've predicted a GOP cave on the AMT extenders - will the GOP stand firm on keeping the taxes high on all taxpayers, because they couldn't get relief on the estate tax end? The usefulness, as Grassley points out, is to paint the DEMs as obstructers. But the GOP could reduce taxes by taking the AMT and other extenders - it's there for the taking. It the GOP obstructing that tax reduction.

This Grassley speech is surprisingly candid on the matter of political calculation.

19:44 - It appears Frist is determined to have a vote on the fence-only bill, and will let the clock run as needed to get to that point. A couple other vote are locked in, cloture on S.403 for example, and DHS appropriations on "political necessity of both parties, plus necessity of appropriations."

Senate leadership is letting speeches run as long as the speakers want. There is no urgency to get to any particular vote.

A Saturday session is given at this point, but not announced. A roll-call vote at 3 AM would expose night-time condition of all the Senators, and is a generally inconsiderate timing plan.

20:12 - Enzi indicates that he will again make a UC request to pass the Ryan White bill. Recalcitrance on display (the objector/obstructers), as a matter of substance. Time filler, as a matter of parliamentary procedure.

20:25 - Enzi propounds a UC request to take up the Ryan White bill while admitting the Lautenberg amendment with 30 minutes equally divided for debate, then a vote on the Ryan White bill. Objection is heard.

Landrieu says Water and OCS bills are "must pass" for Louisiana before the end of the 109th Congress. This demand may preview the last hurried days before the close of the Congress in November.

---===---

20:55 - closing established, following the speeches in morning business. So soon after I say "Saturday is a given," I have to eat crow.

Roll call vote on fence bill, H.R.6061, following agreed time for about 20 minutes of debate, specifically allocated.

Then cloture vote on agreeing to the House amendment and passage of S.403, the child across state lines for abortion act. If cloture fails, go directly to a vote on Conference report on H.R.5441 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007, with some modest closing debate.

If cloture passes, go directly to vote on S.403 as amended.

Following whichever path that took, vote on Conference Report on H.R.4954 - [Sea]Port Security Improvement Act of 2006

Then to H.Con.Res.483 - adjourn

---===---

21:08 - Senator Coburn gently chides Senator Durbin for casting a mental illness compensation bill as "in memory of Paul Wellstone," so that objectors don't respect Wellstone.

21:10 - commentary on H.R.6061 action is here, it passed 80-19.

22:04 - Senator Levin tried to pull a fast one by asking for consent to pass H.R.5122

22:05 - The motion to invoke cloture on S.403 - Child Custody Protection Act was
REJECTED (at 22:30) on a 57 - 42 vote.
GOP NAY Vote: Chafee, Collins, Snowe, Specter
DEM AYE Votes: Byrd, Johnson, Landrieu, Nelson (NE), Pryor and Reid (!!)

A shame. Really a shame. Check the history on this bill. This should have passed tonight.

23:10 - Senator Sessions is talking about border security and immigration. He says, in general, that granting amnesty has a corrosive effect on the law. He's right, and it's obvious.

23:25 or so ... quorum call? All that remains "on the surface" is a couple of non-controversial roll-call votes and whatever bulk of unanimous material that typically passes just before a recess. Must be some horse trading behind closed doors.


UPDATE @ Sept 30

I fell asleep well before the Senate closed.

The Conference report on H.R.5441 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007, passed on a voice vote, before midnight.

The Conference Report on H.R.4954 - [Sea]Port Security Improvement Act of 2006, passed by unanimous consent, sometime after midnight if the bill summary date of 9/30 is to be taken literally.

Conference Report 109-711 Passed on September 29, and news reports that it contains the language of H.R.4777 - Internet Gambling Prohibition Act or H.R.4411 - Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act.

PartyGaming, Sportingbet Plunge on U.S. Gambling Law
FOCUS Sector stunned by US Senate approval for anti-online gaming legislation

The Conference report on H.R.5122 (S.2766) - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, passed by unanimous consent. The language of H.R.6094 - The Community Protection Act (to H.R.5122) does not appear in John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (Engrossed Amendment as Agreed to by Senate) [H.R.5122.EAS].

H.R.6198 - Iran Freedom Support Act, passed by unanimous consent.

Norm Minetta's replacement, Mary Peters as Secretary of Transportation, was confirmed.

I notice that Jordan's nomination to the 3rd Circuit is on the Senate's Executive Calendar for November 7, meaning it wasn't returned to the president. I await publication of the Daily Digest to see whether any judicial nominations were returned, particularly Haynes, Myers, Boyle, Smith and Wallace. I think they weren't returned, as all nominations naturally expire at the conclusion of the 109th Congress, and the contentious nominations won't be handled in the lame duck session(s). Bobo at confirmthem.com points out that Smith, who had been on the Executive Calendar, is no longer on the Executive Calendar. So it appears they were returned, with the Senate keeping Jordan and others deemed non-contentious.

UPDATE @ 9:55 AM Oct 1

I just found this. Should have remembered it sooner, as Bashman of HowAppealing cited to this reference in August ...

Returned COA judicial nominees: Boyle, Haynes, Myers, Smith, Wallace, KEISLER

Also returned was BOLTON, to be Ambassador to the UN.

Also returned was Stickler, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety & Health.

---===---

Signing Statement by the President on H.R. 5631, DoD Appropriations Act, 2007, is quite interesting. I linked to it in my summary of Senate action on the bill and interspersed statutory language with the paragraphs of the signing statement. Just raw material, no analysis or commentary.

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