Thursday, April 27, 2006

Specter, the Senate and the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program

This is a preliminary shell of an article (or entry, if you prefer) that aims to capture some of the tension between Congress and the President on this timely subject.

H.R.5020 Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, passed the House 327 - 96 on April 26, 2006. Part of that negotiation was blocking of H.R.4976, "To reiterate that chapters 119 and 121 of title 18, United States Code, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 are the exclusive means by which domestic electronic surveillance may be conducted."

The blocking of the latter is not "direct" as one might think, and is contained in a failed "Motion to Recommit", by Mr. Schiff, viewable here starting at page 1809. The motion to recommit (with instructions) failed on a 195 - 230 vote.

This article in Jurist contains a bit more, and links to an Associated Press story, as well as to Senator Specter's expressed intention to consider similar "fund blocking" legislation in the Senate.

Congressional Record: April 27, 2006 (Senate)
Page S53726


SA 3679. Mr. SPECTER submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill H.R. 4939, making emergency supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

On page 253, between lines 19 and 20, insert the following:


Sec. 7032. (a) Prohibition.--No funds appropriated by this or any other Act may be obligated or expended to carry out the NSA program, or any other program of electronic surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes, unless each of the following is met:
(1) The Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, and each member of such committee, are kept fully and currently informed of such program in accordance with section 502 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 413a).
(2) The Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives are kept fully and currently informed of such program in accordance with section 503 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 413b).
(b) Sense of Congress.--It is the sense of Congress that the Executive Branch should inform the members of the Committees on the Judiciary of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the NSA program and any other program described in subsection (a) in sufficient detail so as to facilitate and ensure the discharge by such Committees of their oversight responsibilities to determine the constitutionality of Executive Branch actions.
(c) NSA Program Defined.--In this section, the term ``NSA program'' means the program of the National Security Agency on electronic surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes the existence of which has been acknowledged by President George W. Bush and other Executive Branch officials on and after December 17, 2005, any unacknowledged part of the program, and any associated National Security Agency programs or activities.

Senate Live - April 27, 2006

Pending business: H.R. 4939 <- Includes links to amendments.

I'm looking for this one, from Senators to push for $100 gas rebate checks by CNN.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Every American taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline, under an amendment Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote Thursday. ...

The energy package, sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, will be offered as an amendment to an emergency spending measure now before the Senate funding the Iraq war and hurricane relief, according to a senior GOP leadership aide.

Stabenow's S.Amdt.3633 was ruled out of order by the chair, yesterday.

The disposition of the "anti-CSX rail move" amendment, S.Amdt.3641 by Coburn, was a tabling on a 49-48 vote. Tell me this stuff isn't tightly scripted for effect.

Yesterday's action on the Emergency Supplemental has the nitty gritty. I've not pulled it apart to produce a summary - likely won't except for any particular details that catch my interest.

Update: Senator Byrd is at his lectern, introducing a Constitutional Amendment to clarify the 1st amendment, in particular that the Constitution neither forbids nor requires prayer. As Byrd speeches go, this is is starting out as below average. Perhaps it is too early in the morning.

Update: Senator Wyden has been beating the royalties issue to death. Maybe he's intending one of those "talk until you drop" style filibusters. He's doing pretty good at it, as well. Intends to hold the floor until there is an agreement that includes his amendment, S.Amdt.3665, link to discussion above. He's putting a damper on GOP leadership plans to introduce its "Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006"

Senate Republicans to Unveil Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006

Washington, D.C.TODAY, Thursday, April 27, at 12 noon, in the Senate Swamp (Russell Park), the Senate Republican Conference will unveil its Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006, filed last night as an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations bill. The Senate Republican Energy Working Group crafted the plan to help ease the burden on consumers from high oil and gas prices, continue to develop and diversify our domestic fuel supply, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Gas Price Relief and Rebate Act of 2006 290 kB PDF file
News Conference (Grassley) 9.9 Mb MP3 file
Update: Very interesting parliamentary maneuvering, as Wyden continues to try to keep the floor, as of 13:51 Eastern Daylight Time. Salazar wants to introduce his amendment (fire suppression related), and Wyden does not want to yield, out of fear he will lose his right to speak. Senator Cochran of Mississippi objects, as he views this procedure as putting the power to determine the order of business in the hands of one Senator (Wyden). Cochran's objection keeps unanimous consent from occurring. Wyden's amendment, as summarized by C-SPAN2, "Eliminates royalty relief subsidy if the price of crude is greater than $55 per barrel."
Update: 14:39 - exciting exchange involving Reid, Wyden and Cochran. Reid offers a UC proposal to put Wyden amendment (3665) at the end of the list. Cochran objected. Later, noted that he objects because he cannot agree to permitting 3665 to be voted on, unless 3665 is subjected to "2nd degree amendment." Wyden goes ballistic, and says that this proves his amendment cannot be voted on, that voting on 3665 is being blocked. Wyden further gives some hint that perhaps, point being made, his filibuster is winding down.

I think he has to pee.

Update: 15:15 Domenici is rather animated (red faced angry, actually) and asserts that Wyden's amendment has ZERO impact on the budget, per the Congressional Budget Office. He said he was going to offer a 2nd degree amendment (thereby taking the floor) which was ruled out of order, he withdrew the request. Wyden has a good point though, if his amendment (3665) is really meaningless, what's the hangup on voting? I think he misleads by saying it saves the taxpayer money, it doesn't. It COSTS money by imposing a royalty (or technically, by ridding of a royalty abatement program); which is wealth transfer from the people, to the government.

Royalty Rules are at 43 CFR 3103, as a basic matter. I don't know oil royalty calculations, but it looks to be a percentage of the value of oil extracted - and this amount is greater than 10%. Interesting, not a tax, a royalty, but it surely adds to the price at the pump.

Senator Reid is up, suggesting that Wyden perhaps drop the filibuster. There are other matters, and other Senators (some of them Democrats) who have matters they want to cover. Wyden says he appreciates the concern, but that he will stay at the lectern all night if necessary to "save the taxpayers" billions and billions of dollars.

Now Wyden is backing down, giving himself a way out, "if the other side would ever allow a vote, I would stay here." So, given that the other side won't agree to vote, no need to stay there. Reid says "You made your point, I suggest that you take 3 minutes to wrap up, that we go to quorum call, and when that is vitiated, that Cochran have the floor."

It has been an interesting day - "Mr. Smith" style filibuster, you see, it is possible under the current rules of the Senate. Wyden says he will be back with this issue (yeah, sure). But he yields the floor at this time. So, filibuster over as of 15:28 by my local clock.

Update: McCain giving a damn funny speech relating to a federal program to promote eating fish. "This is pork, masquerading as fish," says he. See also, says he, the Salmon-thirty-salmon promotion. And, Charlie the Tuna and Chicken of the Sea seem to do okay without help from the federal government.

"Eat Seafood!" says McCain. "There, millions of people saw that on C-SPAN, no need to have a 15 million dollar federal program to promote eating of fish." Really funny speech, delivered rather deadpan.

Motion to table Div II of S.Amdt.3641 is being conducted on a roll-call basis.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Senate Live - April 26, 2006

The Senators are picking between two measures that increase border security funding: S.Amdt.3594, the Gregg amendment, and S.Amdt.3604, the Reid amendment. Both are discussed here in the Congressional Record.

Basically, the Reid amendment adds new spending, and Gregg's shifts money from elsewhere in defense and security spending. This has the curious effect of making the DEM speakers into defense hawks. I expect the Gregg amendment will pass, and the Reid amendment will fail.

UPDATE: Gregg amendment passes on roll call vote of 59 - 39. The Senate is now voting on the Reid amendment, which is apt to either be a mirror image (39 - 59 rejection) or a blowout, seeing as how it is nonsense to pass Reid in light of passage of Gregg.
UPDATE: Reid amendment rejected 44 - 54, and is under a motion to reconsider. Seems the Gregg amendment is making a bit of a media splash already. See Senate Shifts Iraq Funds to Borders, Ports and similar media stories, published within minutes of the vote on the Gregg amendment being concluded.
UPDATE: Thomas amendment, S.Amdt. 3615 was tabled on a 72 - 26 vote.
UPDATE: Senator Coburn's S.Amdt.3641 removing the 700 million dollar earmark for moving the CSX rail line. He says it is not an emergency, and that it is the sort of "local only" earmark that should not be passed.
UPDATE: Senator Akaka's S.Amdt.3642 allocating 430 million dollars for Veteran's mental health needs, and eradication of waiting lists for veterans.
UPDATE: Senator Ensign Motion to recommit, and now a motion to table the motion to recommit. Ensign wants to send the entire supplemental appropriations bill back to committee with instructions to bring it back with a total within the amount President Bush agreed to. Roll call vote on motion to table is underway now. Looks like the motion will be tabled by a wide margin. Only a few willing to vote on the motion to recommit, Sessions being one of them, Feingold another. Politics indeed makes strange bedfellows.
UPDATE: I missed some action, but see Coburn now up, railing (get it?) that the CSX rail move is by no means an emergency. Motion to table the Coburn amendment is being subjected to a voice vote.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Senate Live - April 25, 2006

Senator Frist opens, notes gas price, and wonder of wonders, that Boyle and Kavanaugh will be brought to the floor for action. But, I ask, "What about Myers?" Myers has been out of committee longer than Boyle (granted, Myers wasn't first nominated in 1991, but still, why not act on Myers?).

The general tenor of Frist's talk is that the DEMs have been obstructionist, and that the GOP, by focus, meaningful solutions, and can advance an agenda that is good for the America. Pardon me while I hold my breath.

More later, if anything of note happens to occur. I have outside chores, and appreciate any comments and questions about goings on at the Senate floor.

update: Durbin up - says price of oil isn't the consumers' fault for "being addicted to oil." It's the greed on the part of the oil companies, and he points to their profits as proof.

Oil (gas prices) seems to be the issue of the week. I agree with National Review's editorial, Congress is politicing the issue when it demagogues the oil companies. Interesting too, and seems lost in the conversation, it may be that ethanol bottlenecks are the limiting factor in gasoline supply. Now wouldn't that be ironic? Plenty of oil, but not enough ethanol. Heheheh.

More later, no doubt. But note that Durbin specifies a windfall profits tax. And he'd rebate the money right to the consumers! Heck, how about clearing out the Social Security lockbox and send us THAT money?

Update / Recapitulation from the Congressional Record


Mr. SMITH. ... The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act is a symbol that can become substance. I believe that by passing this legislation and changing current law we can change hearts and minds as well.


Mr. GRASSLEY. ... I rise to express concern about the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation ... I have asked the majority leader to make me aware of any unanimous consent agreements that both sides aim to enter into before unanimous consent is agreed to.

[And you may have thought that unanimous consent was "expressly given" on a case by case basis. It's not. Senate leadership, Frist and Reid, have been granted broad powers by the other Senators to enter into unanimous consent agreements on their behalf. UC agreements are often forged without inquiring of Senate membership.]


Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, this month people around the world are joining together to remember and honor the men, women, and children who perished in the Armenian genocide. One and a half million Armenians were systematically massacred at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, and over 500,000 more were forced to flee their homeland of 3,000 years. It is important that we note this terrible tragedy.

[Senator Feingold got both, "genocide" and "tragedy" into his speech. President Bush's statement of April 24 only used the term "tragedy," and did not refer to the extermination as "genocide." Some commentators are miffed at the absence of the term "genocide" in the President's statement.]


The following communications were laid before the Senate, together with accompanying papers, reports, and documents, and were referred as indicated: ...

EC-6393. A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law, the amendments to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure ...
EC-6394. A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law , the amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure ...
EC-6395. A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law , the amendments to the Federal Rules of Evidence ...
EC-6396. A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law , the amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure ...
EC-6397. A communication from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, transmitting, pursuant to law , the amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that have been adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States pursuant to Section 2072 of Title 28, United States Code; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

EC-6407. A communication from the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Department of State, transmitting, pursuant to law, a report consistent with the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 1002 (P.L. 107-243) and the Authorization for the Use of Force Against Iraq Resolution (P.L. 102-1) for the October 15, 2005 through December 15, 2005 reporting period; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.


S. 2636. A bill to provide an immediate Federal income tax rebate to help taxpayers with higher fuel costs, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance. ...

By Mr. LEVIN (for himself, Ms. COLLINS, and Mr. REED):
S.J. Res. 34. A joint resolution expressing United States policy on Iraq; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

The text of the proposed resolution is in a later section, and its conclusion (much snipped) reads as follows ...]

... Whereas the American public has become increasingly and understandably impatient with the failure of the Iraqis to form a national unity government: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it is the sense of Congress that the Iraqi political, religious, and tribal leaders should be told by the Administration that--

(1) the continued presence of United States military forces in Iraq is not unconditional;

(2) whether the Iraqis avoid all-out civil war and have a future as a nation is in their hands;

(3) the Iraqis need to seize that opportunity and only they can be responsible for their own future; and

(4) completing the formation of a government of national unity and subsequent agreement to modifications to the Iraq Constitution to make it more inclusive, within the deadlines the Iraqis have set for themselves in the Iraq Constitution, is--
(A) essential to defeating the insurgency and avoiding all-out civil war; and
(B) a condition of the continued presence of United States military forces in Iraq.


The following concurrent resolutions and Senate resolutions were read, and referred (or acted upon), as indicated: ...

S. Res. 442. A resolution expressing the deep disappointment of the Senate with respect to the election of Iran to a leadership position in the United Nations Disarmament Commission and requesting the President to withhold funding to the United Nations unless credible reforms are made; to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

The text of the proposed concurrent resolution and Senator Coleman's remarks are in a later section. He asks some good questions.]

The resolution I plan to submit does the following. It expresses deep disappointment in the failure of the Asian group members of the disarmament commission to stop Iran's election as the vice chair of the body. It asserts the disarmament commission has no credibility on disarmament issues due to Iran's participation, particularly in the light of Iran's defiance of the IAEA resolutions and the Security Council presidential statement regarding its nuclear program. It calls on the U.S. to reject all resolutions passed by the discredited disarmament commission, condemns Iran's continued intransigence with regard to the treatment of Israel and sponsorship of terror and, finally, works to ensure that U.S. funding is withheld from the U.N. in the amount that is directed toward the disarmament commission's activities from its regular budget.

We are not talking about a lot of money here. What we are talking about is making a statement--making a statement. We call upon the President to closely monitor U.N. progress on reform and to exercise his option to withhold funding unless credible reforms are made prior to the discussions of the biannual budget in June.

What do you do? In the U.S. we ask the question, What shall we do when those who enforce the law break the law? In the international context we are asking, What do we do when a key voice in disarmament is given to one of the world's most willful sponsors of terrorism at a time when they are ignoring the international community in their quest for nuclear weapons?

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]

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Senate and the Pension Bill

Making the rounds of news outlets, blogs and other assorted internet reading, this article struck a chord with me. You see, it represents a point where the government stepping in to help one class of people, always does so at the expense of a different class - where the different class is the taxpayer.

Congress Squabbles Over Pension Bill
Fox News - April 23, 2006

Memorial Day, May 29, is the new target for sending to President Bush a bill to prop up the finances of defined-benefit pension plans covering some 44 million people in the United States.

The Senate passed its bill in November; the House approved its version in December. They opened negotiations last month on a compromise but immediately hit a wall over a Senate plan to make companies with poor credit ratings pay more into their pension plans.

That proposal was part of the overall theme of the legislation: ensuring that companies honor their promises to retirees and restore health to a single-employer pension system now underfunded by an estimated $450 billion.

Here is a link to the House Bill, H.R. 2830, with summaries of its various points; and here are links to S.1783 and S.1953, the Senate counterparts.

I read parts of the Congressional Record, especially November 16, 2005 under "PENSION SECURITY AND TRANSPARENCY ACT OF 2005." Most of the "debate" is agreement that the Senate proposal is good in that it protects workers' pension investments as well as the government's backup in case of failure (typically bakruptcy) of private pension funding, the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation (PBRC). The protection comes in the form of higher payments to the PBRC and requirements for increased and more secure "set asides" by private companies, to reduce the risk of pension plan failure in the event of operating insolvency.

The bill passed 97-2, with only Senators Stabenow and Levin voting against (Corzine was the sole non-vote); The Akaka amendment (S.A.2583) passed on a vote of 58-41, quite bipartisan support and opposition. The Akaka amendment gives preferntial pension treatment to airline pilots working for legacy airlines.

At any rate, the following set of comments by Senator Kyl, at page S12918, caught my eye.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, today the Senate is considering long-delayed legislation to reform our defined benefit pension system. While reforms are certainly needed, I must say that I am disappointed with how watered down this legislation has become since we passed it out of the Finance Committee earlier this year.

Obviously, the current system is in dire straits, with the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, the Federal corporation that insures traditional pension plans, running a $22.8 billion deficit for fiscal year 2005. Moreover, the PBGC said that if events that occurred just after the fiscal year's end had occurred a few weeks earlier, the deficit would have been $25.7 billion. If the Government is going to continue to operate a pension-plan insurance program, we must make sure that employers fulfill their pension promises appropriately so that taxpayers are not asked to bail out the PBGC. ...

What strikes me is the notion that a government operated pension-pan insurance program is not a taxpayer funded bailout program in its own right. In the current regime, the "bailout" (money into the PBGC) comes through companies paying into the government plan, and passing the cost to the company's customers - a little bit at a time. A bailout of the PBGC as a whole would be borne by all taxpayers, similar to the savings and loan bailout.

Pay me now, or pay me later.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Immigration Hearing - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

On Tuesday, April 25, 2006, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be conducting a public hearing relating to the economic impact of the current immigration enforcement, and the economic impact of proposed revisions to statute.

Update: Links added after each speaker's "preview," to the testimony they provided in the hearing. My quick impression is that all four speakers are proponents of globalism, and are resigned to a reduction in the standard of living in the United States as "the world income levels" equalize. See also, Senator Leahy's Statement which hard sells the McCain/Kennedy or similar "compromise" legislation.

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on "Immigration" on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 9:30 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226. Note: This hearing may continue into the afternoon.

Tentative Witness List
Hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
"Immigration: Economic Impacts"
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226
9:30 a.m.


Richard B. Freeman
Professor of Economics
Harvard University
Program Director of Labor Studies
National Bureau of Economic Research
Cambridge MA

Dan Siciliano
Executive Director
Program in Law
Economics and Business
Stanford Law School
Stanford, CA

Barry R. Chiswick
Professor of Economics
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL

Harry J. Holzer
Professor of Public Policy
Georgetown University
Washington, DC

I have no idea of the backgrounds, biases, expertise or other potentially interesting and relevant facts with regard to Mssrs. Freeman, Siciliano, Chiswick or Holzer, but will likely look into each of them a bit before Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Research into the Panel

National Bureau of Economic Research

I bumped into NBER right off the bat, as it hosts Mr. Freeman's home page. The organization touts itself as unbiased, and it may be, in the same sense that the Federalist Society is - which is to present multiple sides of argument and let the readers decide. Milton Friedman contributed to early work of NBER, and in their own words, "The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community."

In December, 2005, NBER published a paper, The Evolution of the Mexican Workforce in the United States, the abstract of which includes this statement:

The authors also find that the large Mexican influx in recent decades has contributed to the widening of the U.S. wage structure by adversely affecting the earnings of less-educated native workers and improving the earnings of college graduates. These wage effects have, in turn, lowered the prices of non-traded goods and services that are low-skill labor intensive.

The authors of the paper are NBER Research Associates George Borjas and Lawrence Katz, not Mr. Freeman.

Richard B. Freeman

Update - Testimony of Richard B. Freeman

Richard B. Freeman's Home Page

NBER provides a List of working papers by Mr. Freeman. The notion that wealth transfer (that is, government sponsored welfare) results in higher unemployment is expressed in the abstract of Why Don't More Puerto Rican Men Work? The Rich Uncle (Sam) Hypothesis. Injecting my opinion here, I'd say that bodes well for having Mr. Freeman on the panel, inasmuch as he might link US social welfare policies (e.g., free public education, indigent/emergency health care) with the influx of workers.

Not that I believe social welfare is the only linked issue, but it's my sense that the "safety net" and general lack of protecting "the Euro-American way of life" (see provision of bilingual services) represent a significant part of the incentive to flout the legal immigration process. Sorry about the digression ;-)

And this from the abstract of one of Mr. Freeman's papers dated 1996:

Evidence suggests that the depressed labor market for low skill American workers contributed to the continued high level of crime by less educated men, despite incapacitation and the deterrent effect of imprisonment. The costs of incarceration are such that even marginally effective prevention policies can be socially desirable.

Why Do So Many Young American Men Commit Crimes and What Might We Do About It?

Another interesting question there. Earlier this month, the notion that sound immigration policy needs to adapt to economic conditions was raised in the Senate. That being that what may represent good policy is strong business economies - permitting MORE immigration in order to fill a demand for workers - has a downside during weak business economies. The immigrant workers are seen as taking jobs from citizen workers, who in a time of bad economy become willing to work for less.

Mr. Freeman has also published articles in "The Nation," which tend to advocate what is arguably more effective means of collective bargaining, the object being to increase the ranks of unions. See also what is perhaps an objective analysis in a powerpoint presentation (in PDF format) at Doubling the Global Work Force: The Challenge of Integrating China, India ..., at slide No. 14. One of the Four Mechanisms of globalization? "Immigration - US has bifurcated flows" And also on the last slide, No. 28, the presentation indicates "Safety net/social wage" as a desirable policy for the United States.

A few links to ease your further research:

Dan Siciliano

Update - Testimony of Dan Siciliano

I have an easy chore here, seeing as how Mr. Siciliano testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on November 16, 2005. The conclusions he reached in that testimony were

  • U.S. economy has become increasingly reliant on immigrant workers to fill the growing number of less-skilled jobs [Doing the jobs that Americans won't do]
  • Some claim that immigration reduces employment levels and wages among native-born workers. This is generally not true.
  • immigration beyond current legal limits has already become an integral component of U.S. economic growth and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future
  • The complementary nature of immigrant labor makes it unlikely that immigrants are replacing a significant number of native-born workers, but are instead moving into positions that allow native-born workers to be more productive.
I note in passing that Mr. Siciliano fails to quantify his position. All agree that immigration is good for society, when the immigration is at an appropriate rate. The issue isn't "immigration or NOT", it is how much immigration, and what is the preferred mix of immigrants when taking into account skill, political asylum, adherence to what is thought of as "Western Civilization," and commitment to assimilate.

That being said, I do agree that a simplistic model that fails to account for some measure of complementary effect is wrong. Baseball teams, to use an overused example, become stronger when certain gaps in their team performance are filled. Likewise companies. If there are no troubleshooters of the necessary type, or not enough "hands on the rope" (to use a tug-of-war analogy), then adding the missing component via immigration will advance the team effort, by more than the measure of the immigrant's effort.

Mr. Siciliano is the CEO of LawLogix, a firm that provides software for immigration case management. This relates primarily to the case management for legal immigration, and is sold to lawyers and immigrations offices. "All-in-One System - Integrated forms, billing, e-filing and case management with multi-language client online interfaces that are easy to learn and use for both you and your clients."

A few additional links to start your further research:

My sense (here is my personal impression and opinion again) of the AILF, based on skimming a few of the papers there, is that they are critical of Congress for not establishing and funding a system that facilitates orderly immigration. I have to agree with that, FedGov is bureaucracy at it worst. But they openly advocate the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act," S.1033/ H.R.2330 of McCain-Kennedy (and Kolbe, in the House) over the "Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act," S.1438 by Cornyn and Kyl, asserting that Cornyn-Kyl "would make a bad situation worse." Whether you agree with their position or not, AILF Issue Papers presents a darn good summary of details that play into developing immigrations and border control policy.

Barry R. Chiswick

Update - Testimony of Barry R. Chiswick

Dr. Chiswick's work doesn't lend itself to simple analysis, he's an egghead, and I mean that in an endearing way. His analyses include the following sorts of conclusions:

  • Immigrants are shown to receive approximately the same rate of return to the "required" (occupational norm) level of education, but experience a smaller negative effect of years of undereducation, and to a lesser extent a small positive effect of overeducation. (Why Is the Payoff to Schooling Smaller for Immigrants?)
  • A consistent finding is that recently arrived Soviet Jewish immigrants have lower levels of English proficiency and earnings than other immigrants, other variables being the same. However, they have a steeper improvement in both proficiency and earnings with duration in the United States and the differences from the other European immigrants disappear after a few years. (The Linguistic and Economic Adjustment of Soviet Jewish Immigrants)
  • Pre-school enrollment is found to vary systematically with parental characteristics (income and education), immigrant generation, number of siblings, mother's labor supply and country of origin. (Pre-School Enrollment: An Analysis by Immigrant Generation)
    [Read the study]
  • Immigrants are highly geographically concentrated. Compared to the native born they are more likely to live in the central parts of Metropolitan Areas in "gateway (major international airport) cities" in six states (California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Illinois). (Where Immigrants Settle in the United States)
  • Teenage immigration is associated with fewer years of schooling compared to those who immigrated at pre-teen or post-teen ages. ... Hispanics and Blacks lag behind the non-Hispanic whites in their educational attainment, with the gap narrowing for higher order immigrant generations among Hispanics, but rising among blacks. (Educational Attainment: Analysis by Immigrant Generation)
    [Read the study]
Well, finally, I found an article by Dr. Chiswick that is written in plain English, and seems to cut to policy questions rather than rigorous analysis of minutia (interesting minutia, no doubt, and I am a firm subscriber to "the devil is in the details," but the object of this blog entry is to get a handle on the fundamental policy view of the people who will be addressing questions put by United States Senators!).

The article linked below describes various methods that might be used to ration visas, and seems to put at risk the policy of giving preference to family members. He says, "On the other hand, US Policy regarding non-refugee immigrants is Troubling. These visas are issued largely on the basis of kinship with a US citizen or resident alien, with very little weight given to an applicant's likely contribution to the US economy."

After an accessible expounding of alternatives, Dr. Chiswick concludes:

Many people who immigrate to the United States each year on the basis of kinship criteria would not qualify on the basis of productivity criteria. The immigration of these less productive workers is at the expense of the US population. The largest adverse impact may be borne by low-skilled or socially disadvantaged Americans, who face greater competition in the labor market and in the allocation of income transfers. An immigration policy based on productivity would reverse this pattern. By increasing the overall skill level and hence the productivity of immigrants, the overall economic impact of immigration would become more favorable. Greater public support for increasing the annual level of immigration would likely follow.

Legal Aliens: Toward a Positive Immigration Policy

Yet another group of additional links for further research:

Harry J. Holzer

Update - Testimony of Harry J. Holzer

Ahh, another witness who has testified on the subject of immigration in the past. Mr. Holzer testified before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims on May 4, 2005. His premise is that US employment rate (or unemployment rate) is driven more by underlying economic strength than by the number of immigrants; and that more immigration will be viewed as a positive as current citizens, especially "baby boomers," retire and leave a shortage of workers. He asserts that job growth was stagnant from March 2001 and 2004, and that the job market at the time (May 2005) "remains quite weak."

He further asserts that immigration affects a small number of labor market sectors, especially in specific geographic regions. "None of this implies that immigrants are directly displacing U.S. workers in large numbers." He says too that "foreign-born students and workers will be a major source of new scientists and engineers in the U.S. over the next few decades."

I find Mr. Holzer's testimony here to be disjointed and misleading. There is little in the way of cause and effect supposition, and his conclusions are more in the nature of truisms than reasoned argument. For example, "Over the longer term, Americans need to improve their skills to maintain and increase their earnings growth." Well sure, if one wants to earn more (earnings growth), ones needs to bring greater skills (which are more scarce) or greater productivity to the table.

Mr. Holzer also testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on November 16, 2005. His general contention there is "that it would be economically unwise to drastically curtail immigration to the United States." Well, one person's "drastic reduction" is another's "reasonable." I much prefer some sort of quantification. One other observation - Mr. Holzer usually mentions immigrants as being likely to engage in elder care. I think this is an interesting wedge, and that could be a subject for an entire piece.

Mr. Holzer was critical of Alan Greenspan's advice to reduce government spending and make the Bush tax cuts permanent. His definition of "fiscal sanity" is to first define targeted functions that the government can and should provide, as a matter of creating and maintaining a business infrastructure (looks to me like government directed prioritizing of R&D), and devotion to social safety nets, and then to tax in order to meet those functions.

He is also an active contributor to Center for American Progress, which produced these talking points relating to immigration reform:

  • Conservatives deserve the blame for the failure of the passage of the immigration bill
  • Immigration isn't just a "Mexican" issue
  • There is still hope for a comprehensive immigration bill
  • The McCain-Kennedy bill still remains the model for what should be passed

A final set of additional links

More readings relating to Immigration

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

ABA downgrades Kavanaugh Rating

Somewhat "old" news on the judicial nominations front, and a hat-tip to, the ABA has down-rated Kavanaugh by virtue of fewer voting "well qualified" in the third review.

Yep. Three reviews. The first two had a majority of votes placing Kavanaugh in "well qualified," but the third round has a majority of votes in the "qualified" category.

At least the ABA hasn't revoked the rating as they did with Payne last month -- so far.

There seems to be a deliberate effort to stall and whittle down the nominees that Specter and Frist don't want to handle. And it's my impression that the reason they don't want to handle certain nominees is based on avoiding confrontation with the Democrats.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blue Slip Rules under Senator Specter

Poking around, and in particular, this post, I ran into the following paragraph by Ed Whelen, from an article in The Weekly Standard ...

Orrin Hatch, Specter's predecessor as chairman, stated clearly in 2003 that he would abide by the same blue-slip policy that Teddy Kennedy and Joe Biden had adopted when they each chaired the committee. Under what Hatch labeled the "Kennedy-Biden-Hatch blue-slip policy," the return of a negative blue slip on a nomination would be given "substantial weight," but a committee hearing and vote on the nomination would proceed. Specter has issued no such statement, and he has not yet held a hearing on any nominee with negative or unreturned blue slips.

As speculated elsewhere, this would clearly explain the bottling up of certain nominations, in committee.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Easter Rambling - Senate Recess

I'm still cogitating while the Senate is taking a break. I anticipate publicity on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, as well as on a "Bush is a hypocrit" based on court filings in the Libby perjury case.

My opinions on the Libby case comprehend the political maneuverings and the legal details. IMO, the case is a simple perjury case, and Libby is guilty of lying to investigators. I think the case is based on a bogus investigation, but President Bush gave his imprimatur to it.

I find the reaction of the amateur partisan commentators amusing. The inclination on the President's side is to besmirch Fitzgerald and to excuse perjury based on comparative morality and on a legal theory that excuses misleading investigators on the grounds they were assigned to a case that would find no wrongdoing.

The DEMs over-react too (Duh). Libby's lies are turned into evidence of a conspiracy by President Bush to mislead the public into war with Iraq.

Reasoned dialog is hard to come by, given those wildly divergent points of view.

Senate Summary - April 7, 2006

Senate Summary - April 7, 2006

A bill (S. 2454) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform and for other purposes.


Specter/Leahy amendment No. 3192, in the nature of a substitute.

Kyl/Cornyn amendment No. 3206 (to amendment No. 3192), to make certain aliens ineligible for conditional nonimmigrant work authorization and status.

Cornyn amendment No. 3207 (to amendment No. 3206), to establish an enactment date.

Isakson amendment No. 3215 (to amendment No. 3192), to demonstrate respect for legal immigration by prohibiting the implementation of a new alien guest worker program until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies to the President and the Congress that the borders of the United States are reasonably sealed and secured.

Dorgan amendment No. 3223 (to amendment No. 3192), to allow United States citizens under 18 years of age to travel to Canada without a passport, to develop a system to enable United States citizens to take 24-hour excursions to Canada without a passport, and to limit the cost of passport cards or similar alternatives to passports to $20.

Mikulski/Warner amendment No. 3217 (to amendment No. 3192), to extend the termination date for the exemption of returning workers from the numerical limitations for temporary workers.

Santorum/Mikulski amendment No. 3214 (to amendment No. 3192), to designate Poland as a program country under the visa waiver program established under section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Nelson (FL) amendment No. 3220 (to amendment No. 3192), to use surveillance technology to protect the borders of the United States.

Sessions amendment No. 3420 (to the language proposed to be stricken by amendment No. 3192), of a perfecting nature.

Nelson (NE) amendment No. 3421 (to amendment No. 3420), of a perfecting nature.

Roll Call Vote 00089 : 38 - 60 Reject Cloture on recommit S.2454 with Hagel-Martinez
DEM Against Cloture: Baucus, Byrd, Conrad, Dorgan, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE)

Roll Call Vote 00090 : 36 - 62 Reject Cloture on S.2454 Frist
DEM for Cloture: Byrd, Nelson (NE)
GOP Against Cloture: Brownback, Chafee, Coleman, Collins, Craig, DeWine, Ensign, Graham, Hagel, Inhoffe, Kyl, Lugar, McCain, Roberts, Snowe, Specter, Thomas, Voinovich, Warner


Mr. SPECTER. ... We had a lot of tough votes, but we finished the bill and we reported it to the Senate. We are going to go back to work on this bill because if the full Senate cannot find the answer, then the Judiciary Committee is going to find the answer. We are going to return to the floor of the Senate a bill which I believe the Senate will find acceptable, and we will set forth procedures that I think the full Senate will find acceptable. That is the commitment.

Mr. LEAHY. If the Senator will yield a moment on that, I have commended the Senator before for his indefatigable leadership. He worked extraordinarily hard. I commit to the senior Senator from Pennsylvania that on the Democratic side we will continue to work with him on any amount of time he needs in committee. Our committee demonstrated that we can produce a bipartisan bill. We will continue to work with him in any way necessary to finish this. I agree with him that it is important. On this of the aisle, we will continue that work.

Mr. SPECTER. I thank the distinguished ranking member.

Addressing the situation generally as to what we face now on the immigration bill, I think it is most unfortunate, really unacceptable, that the compromise arrangement has fallen through. I believe this legislation is vital for America's interests, vital for our national security interests, vital for our economic interests, and vital for our humanitarian interests.

The agreement has been decimated, has fallen through, because of partisan politics. Regrettably, partisan politics plays too large a role on both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans, and there is more concern about political advantage in this situation--as it is in many situations--than there is on public policy and the public welfare. The procedures for not allowing tough votes, regrettably--that practice has been undertaken by both Democrats and Republicans. I have been in the Senate for 25 years now, and this has been a repeated practice which I have noted at least from the past decade and a half. It has occurred even beyond that period of time. Both the Democratic and Republican leaders--minority leaders, but mostly leaders--have been in the position to do what is called ``fill the tree.''

Senate procedures are arcane and complicated. I would not begin to try to explain them now. But the conclusion is that you can use the rules to avoid having votes come up, if you want to do it. It is called filling the tree. Republicans on this immigration bill have been stymied from offering amendments. But at the same time, on other bills, on prior days, Democrats had been stymied from offering amendments. So it is a matter of bipartisan blame.

But what is happening is that the public interests are being damaged. A very similar situation occurred last year on the filibusters. The Democrats filibustered President Bush's judicial nominees in retaliation for tactics employed by Republicans to stymie President Clinton's nominees from having votes, from coming out of committee or, once out of committee, from having votes on the Senate floor. That impasse, that confrontation on judges, almost threatened to destroy a very vital part of the institution of the Senate, and that is the right of unlimited debate. Where the filibusters were used, in my view, inappropriately, consideration was given to changing the rules of the Senate to change the number of Senators necessary to cut off debate from 60, which is the current rule, to 51. Fortunately, we were able to avoid that confrontation ...

Mr. DURBIN. ... I stand here today uncertain about where the Republican Party of the United States of America stands on the issue of immigration. I know where the House Republicans stand. They are very clear. It is a punitive, mean-spirited approach to immigration, which most Republicans in the Senate have rejected. The idea of charging volunteers, nurses, and people of faith who help the poorest among us with a felony if one of those poor people happens to be an undocumented immigrant is the ultimate. That is the position of the House Republicans.

For the life of me, I don't know what the position of the Senate Republicans is on immigration. Their leader stood before us yesterday and accepted this bipartisan compromise, came before the cameras and said this was his bill, too. He filed a motion so that we could limit debate and move to final passage of this bill and announced last night that he would vote against his own motion.

In the history of the United States, there was a political party known as the mugwumps. They were called mugwumps because people said they had their mug on one side of the face and their wump on the other. That is what I see when I look at the Senate Republican caucus. Where are they on immigration? ...

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, it is an interesting time on the floor of the Senate. We just heard the most fascinating speech about fingerpointing I have heard in decades--fingerpointing from the other side that is trying to suggest they are blameless, absolutely without blame, because the Senate is stalled in its attempt to gain a comprehensive immigration reform bill. ...

To suggest that the Democratic caucus has not had conflict behind closed doors over the last week is, in fact, a false statement because today we see this veneered front. To suggest that they are without blame because the Senate for 1 week has stood still doing nothing because they would not allow amendments on the comprehensive bill? May I say shame on you? I am saying that because the veneer doesn't fit. It is paper thin like the front page of the legislation before us.

Mr. GRASSLEY. ... Some say that our enforcement-only approach in 1996 didn't work. Let me remind my colleagues that the 1996 bill contained measures that still have not been implemented. The best example is the entry-exit system. It is not fully operational because Congress and our bureaucrats keep delaying its implementation. ...

Some have estimated that there are 7.7 to 8.5 million illegal aliens who have been here for more than 5 years. That is more than 75 percent of the illegal population. But that is not all. The compromise says that the family of the illegal alien--their spouses and children--can also apply. It doesn't say that their family has to be in this country. In fact, those back in their home countries are now getting a free pass to cross the border. They, too, are on their way to a citizenship.

Those in the second tier who are required to go home and re-enter through a legal channel won't go home. Why would they if their neighbors are getting citizenship? They will hold out for their reward. They will wait for Congress to pass another amnesty bill. We are sending a bad signal. We are saying some can get amnesty and some cannot. ...

The proponents say that illegal aliens have to pay their taxes. Don't let them fool you. Sure, they have to pay all outstanding Federal and Sate taxes before their status is adjusted, but they only have to pay the taxes they owe for the 3 years that they are required to work. What about the other years? They have been here for at least 5. What about those under the age of 20 who are exempt from having to work? What if they work? Don't they have to pay their taxes? ...

The English requirement is weak. It is weaker than current naturalization requirements. Under current law, an immigrant has to demonstrate an understanding of the English language and a knowledge of the fundamentals of our history and government. Under this compromise, an alien only has to prove that they are pursuing a course of study in English, history, and U.S. Government. Anybody could make that claim.

The compromise would require the Department of Homeland Security to do a background check on the illegal aliens in the United States. In fact, this compromise has placed a time limit on our Federal agents. They have 90 days to complete them. That is unrealistic. It is possible. It is a huge burden. And it is a huge expense.

Homeland Security will surely try to hurry with these background checks. They will be pressured by Congress to rush them. They will rubberstamp applications despite possible gang participation, criminal activity, terrorist ties, and other violations of our laws. This is a national security concern. ...

But wait--there is more. If an alien has been ordered removed, and is sitting in jail ready to be deported, the alien still gets the chance to apply for this amnesty. The thousands of illegal aliens with orders to leave the country can apply. Their country won't take them back, so our country will give them citizenship. That doesn't make sense. ...

Foreign workers won't have to take low-skilled jobs anymore. They won't be required to do the jobs that Americans supposedly won't do. Their spouses and children will permanently take jobs away. These aren't temporary workers anymore.

What happens when this country goes into recession? Americans will be banging on our door, asking why we did this to them.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I want to explain to my colleagues why the Senate should not proceed to the nomination of Peter Flory to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.

At its core, this is an issue of the executive branch refusing to provide the Senate with documents that are relevant to the confirmation proceeding. ...

Here is the critical connection between the Feith office and Mr. Flory: Mr. Flory worked in the office of Under Secretary Feith at the time the alternative assessment was developed and disseminated. Some of the internal e-mails we have been able to obtain indicate Mr. Flory requested and received briefings on the collection of intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress in December 2002. The INC material should have been evaluated by the intelligence community and filtered through their screen. Instead, it went to the Feith policy shop, which included Mr. Flory. ...

This is not a case of blocking Mr. Flory from occupying the office to which he has been nominated. I want to emphasize this for our colleagues: Mr. Flory has received a recess appointment. He occupies the office. He is currently serving in the position to which he was nominated. So there should be no argument that we need to give up a vital institutional right to obtain documents relevant to our carrying out of our confirmation function. Again, Mr. Flory occupies the office to which he has been nominated. The issue here is whether we are going to have access to documents that are relevant or may be relevant to this nomination. ...

Senator McCain last year or the year before held up promotions and transfers of senior officers in the Air Force because the Department of Defense refused to provide information he sought which was relevant to a proposed Air Force lease of tanker aircraft. We supported him. He was right; he is entitled to that information. ...

In short, the Senate has a longstanding practice of holding up nominations in order to obtain documents relevant to confirmation and oversight responsibilities. This has been done by Senators of both parties, in Senates controlled by both parties, and with administrations controlled by both parties.

Roll Call Vote 00091 : 59 - 34 Approve nomination of Dorrance Smith
DEMS for Nominee: Feingold, Kohl, Landrieu, Lieberman, Lincoln, Nelson (NE), Pryor

Roll Call Vote 00092 : 52 - 41 Reject Cloture on nomination of Peter Flory
Pure Party-line vote


Mr. REID. Mr. President, yesterday the American people received the shocking news that the Vice President's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, may have acted on direct orders from President Bush when he leaked classified intelligence information to reporters. It is an understatement to say that this is a serious allegation with national security consequences. It directly contradicts previous statements made by the President. It continues a pattern of misleading America by this Bush White House. It raises somber and troubling questions about the Bush administration's candor with Congress and the American people.

Today, I come to the floor to request answers on behalf of our troops, their families, and the American people. For years President Bush has denied knowing about conversations between his top aides and Washington reporters, conversations where his aides, like Scooter Libby, sought to justify the war in Iraq and discredit the White House's critics by leaking national security secrets. In fact, President Bush is on record clearly, in September of 2003, as saying:

I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take appropriate action.

Yesterday, we found there is much more to the story. According to court records, President Bush may have personally authorized the very leaks he denied knowing anything about. In light of this disturbing news, we need to hear from President Bush which of these is true: His comments in 2003 or the statements made by the Vice President's chief of staff. Only the President can put this matter to rest.

Harry Truman had on his desk in the Oval Office a plaque. It said: ``The buck stops here.'' In George Bush's White House, perhaps he should put one that says: The leaks start here.

He, the President of the United States, must tell the American people whether President Bush's Oval Office is a place where the buck stops or the leaks start. This is a question he alone must answer, not a spokesman, not a statement, only the President of the United States.

I yield the floor.


Mr. WYDEN. Mr. President, I rise to offer a simple proposition: Congress should act like a coequal branch of Government and vote on whether to keep American troops in Iraq for at least 3 more years. ...

If the President refuses to come to Congress in the coming weeks with his plan and his budget to win the peace in Iraq, Congress owes it to the American people to vote up or down on whether to keep American troops in Iraq for at least 3 more years.

The President's case for winning the peace in Iraq should address these concerns:

First, how the President can help make the Iraqis self-reliant so that they can defeat the deadly insurgency.

Second, how the President intends to help Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders break the political impasse so that they can form a unity government.

Third, how the President intends to pull the Iraqi people back from the brink of all-out civil war and the specter of another Rwanda or Darfur.

Fourth, how the President intends to help rebuild the Iraqi infrastructure and ensure that Iraqis have access to basic services like electricity and clean water.

And fifth, how the President intends to bring the troops home from Iraq.

The vote I call for today, if held, won't be about cutting-and-running. It won't be about who comes up with the best spin. It will be about holding the President and Congress accountable. The vote will hold the President accountable for presenting a plan and a budget for securing the peace. And the vote will hold Congress accountable by making it finally act like a co-equal branch of government.

16 . EASTER WEEK -- (Senate - April 07, 2006)

Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, this Sunday, April 9, is Palm Sunday, thank God. It marks the beginning of the Christian holy week and Easter. The Senate will recess today so that Members might celebrate this holy week in the home churches, among their families, friends, and constituents. Before we adjourn, I would like to give a little consideration to those world-shaping events of some 2,000 years ago.

Whether one counts himself or herself as a Christian of any denomination or a follower of any other faith, one must admit that the man, the person, at the center of the Easter celebration was and is a figure of historical import, just as are the founding figures of the rest of the world's religions. There are today, by some estimates, approximately 2.1 billion Christians of all denominations, more than any other religious affiliation, and almost twice as many as those who describe themselves as secular, nonreligious, agnostic, or atheist--1.1 billion. By way of contrast, there are approximately 1.3 billion adherents of Islam and just 14 million of Jesus' Jewish faith. That one man's example and teachings have affected so many people so deeply and for so many years is a testament to his faith.

On Palm Sunday, a rabbi from Galilee, whom we know best today as Jesus, made a public entrance into Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover.

In doing so, Jesus surely knew what was in store for Him. He knew--He knew--He was a wanted man. He knew He was a wanted man--He knew it--marked for arrest by the civil authorities who feared that He would incite a rebellion that would lead to Roman occupation and unprotected by religious authorities who feared His teachings and who could not countenance His refusal to deny being more than human. But still He came. Still He came and the people cheered and threw palm leaves, a symbol of triumph and the national symbol of an independent Palestine, before his path. What a remarkable act of faith. What a remarkable act of faith to come willingly to one's tragic end, seeing through the suffering to the miracle of resurrection. The miracle; the miracle of resurrection. What a remarkable act of courage, to remain silent and smiling at the people He knew would not or could not aid Him in His final hours.

Some 2,000 years later, those 2.1 billion Christians around the world commemorate Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem by making crosses out of palm fronds, combining the triumphant entrance with the lasting image of Jesus Christ on the cross.

By Thursday, called Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, Jesus' freedom ended after His last meal, when He was arrested and imprisoned, betrayed--yes, betrayed--by Judas for 30 pieces of silver. Foreknowledge could not have made those fateful moments any easier to bear. On Good Friday, Christians will solemnly remember His suffering and death upon the cross. Candles and lights will be extinguished in memory of His final hours. Good Friday remains a sad, dark day despite the knowledge of His resurrection to leaven the terrible suffering He endured.

Holy Saturday is a day of vigil, as Christians figuratively keep watch over Christ's tomb and await the glorious resurrection to come. And Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday, is a joyful, glorious day of reaffirmed faith, of promises kept, of hope restored.

I read now from the Book of St. Matthew, the 28th chapter, the first through the seventh verses, the King James version of the Holy Bible:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where [Jesus] lay.

The scriptures say:

Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, He ``goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him: Lo, I have told you.''

For the next 40 days, Christ proved to his followers that He had, indeed, risen from the dead. Then He ascended into Heaven, fulfilling the final promise of His wondrous life. As John 3:16 so beautifully summed up the central promise of the Christian faith, ``For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.'' In Jesus' resurrection and ascension, God offers the greatest and only proof of His love and His promise that in death, there is life in faith. That--that, not chocolate bunnies and colorful eggs--is the great gift of Easter. Its comfort and solace linger on in the soul even longer than chocolate does on the lips. It warms us even more during sad times--yes--than does the spring sun after a cold and cheerless winter.

And so it is because of this great gift, this promise--yes, this promise of everlasting life and the heart-searing proof through sacrifice that Christianity survived the passing of its founder. Nearly 2,000 years later, the words and example of the Rabbi from Galilee motivate and support over 2 billion--over 2 billion--people around the world. Governments have tried to stamp Him out, but still He endures in the hearts of His devout followers. Technology has tried to distract us, but still His word--yes, his word--beckons. I am sure that whatever trials and tribulations lie ahead, His teachings and faith will offer comfort and hope no matter how bleak the future might appear. In all of the moments of our lives, large and small, joyful and desolate, triumphant and abject, He--yes, He is there at our side with support and hope. I do feel for those 1.2 billion people who do not have faith to sustain them and give them strength. It is a deep, deep well of support and nourishment for the weary soul--for the weary soul.

Mr. President, I close my speech with the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from his poem ``Christus: A Mystery.'' In the poem, Prince Henry is speaking to Elsie as they cross the square:

This is the day, when from the dead our Lord arose; and everywhere, out of their darkness and despair, triumphant over fears and foes, the hearts of his disciples rose, when to the women, standing near, the angel in shining vesture said, ``The Lord is risen; He is not here!'' And, mindful that the day is come, on all the hearths in Christendom the fires are quenched, to be again rekindled from the sun, that high is dancing in the cloudless sky. The churches are all decked with flowers, the salutations among men are but the Angel's words divine, ``Christ is arisen!'' And the bells catch the glad murmur, as it swells, and chant together in their towers. All hearts are glad; and free from care the faces of the people shine. See what a crowd is in the square, gayly and gallantly arrayed!

Mr. President, let me close--and I hope I have not imposed too long on the Senate and on my friends who may have been waiting--let me close with these words spoken by William Jennings Bryan in his speech on immortality. Now is the time to think about it. That is what Easter is: the promise of immortality.

If the Father deigns to touch with divine power the cold and pulseless heart of the buried acorn, and make it burst forth from its prison walls again in the mighty Oak, will He leave neglected in the Earth the soul of man, who was made in the image of his Creator? If He stoops to give to the rosebush, whose withered blossoms float upon the autumn breeze, the sweet assurance of another springtime, will He withhold all the words of hope from the sons of men when the frosts of winter come? If Matter, mute and inanimate, though changed by the forces of Nature into a multitude of forms, can never die, will the imperial spirit of man suffer annihilation after a brief visit to this tenement of clay?


Rather, let us believe that He who, in his apparent prodigality, wastes not the raindrop, the blade of grass, or the evening's sighing zephyr, but makes them all to carry out His eternal plans, has given immortality to the mortal.


18 . IRAQ

Mr. LAUTENBERG. ... Now we have some different news that has come about to accompany those stories of horror from Iraq. Everybody now knows that the Vice President's former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has been indicted as part of the investigation into the leak of classified material from the White House.

I remember when this controversy broke. President Bush acted incredulous that anyone would leak classified national security information. In fact, in September 2003, the President said:

There's just too many leaks, and if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is.

But now we find out--I think embarrassingly for the President, embarrassingly for the United States--we now find out that the President himself was ordering a leak of classified material. And he leaked that classified information for political reasons. He was trying to undo some of the political damage caused by the disclosure that the intelligence community did not believe Iraq was trying to purchase uranium. There it was: the reason we went to Iraq in the first place, and substantial doubts.


Mr. REID. Mr. President. I am concerned with the lack of progress being made in conference on reaching a final agreement on the pension bill. To this point, little movement has been made to bridge the differences between the House and Senate bills. ...

However, House Republicans seem intent on producing a bill without including Democrats. That would be unfortunate and is likely to produce a bill that fails to meet the principles supported by the Democratic caucus.

The Senate pension bill was crafted with bipartisan participation, and that approach produced a bill that received almost unanimous support in the Senate. Working together, the conferees can produce a conference agreement that would garner an equally strong vote.

  • The conference agreement should include balanced funding rules
  • The conference agreement should protect older workers while clarifying the status of cash balance plans
  • The conference agreement should include targeted relief for troubled industries
  • The conference agreement should improve employer-based retirement savings plans
  • The conference agreement should include reform of multiemployer pension plans
  • The conference agreement cannot include provisions that undermine patient's rights
  • The conference agreement should modernize ERISA without weakening worker protections
  • The conference agreement should be fiscally responsible [no tax cuts]


Mr. REID. ... The Dubai Ports fiasco shined a light on a flawed process at the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States--referred to as CFIUS. It raised questions regarding the competence of those in the Bush administration to review these matters and make decisions about the purchase of strategic U.S. assets. It also raised questions about a process that did not trigger a full investigation into a transaction that was so important to our national security. ...

The Senate Banking Committee on Thursday voted to report legislation unanimously that would reform the CFIUS process. It was a difficult job. I commend Senators SHELBY and SARBANES for putting together bipartisan, consensus legislation that puts security first, while striking a balance that continues to welcome foreign investment. America has benefited a tremendous amount from foreign investment into our economy, so I am glad that we have not overreacted to the Bush administration's mistakes and mismanagement in their review of these important transactions.


Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, I support the nomination of Gordon England to the position of Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Secretary England has been the Department's problem-solver for the last 5 years. In this brief period of time, he has served as Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of the Navy again, and--after being under consideration to serve as Secretary of the Air Force--as Deputy Secretary of Defense. At the request of the Secretary of Defense, he has also taken on such critical jobs as designing the new National Security Personnel System and overseeing the review of the status of DOD detainees at Guantanamo.


Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, I wish to express my regret that the administration has decided to decline the opportunity for candidacy on the newly formed U.N. Human Rights Council. I supported the creation of the Human Rights Council because I believe that we need to create a system where human rights abusers are held accountable for the atrocities they commit. It was for that same reason that there was overwhelming international support for the creation of the Human Rights Council.

Closing Actions

Bills read a second time and put on the calendar ...

S.2603 - A bill to reduce the charges for mining sodium on government land
S.2611 - Immigration (Specter, Brownback, Graham, Hagel, Kennedy, Martinez, McCain)
S.2612 - Immigration (Hagel, Brownback, Graham, Kennedy, Martinez, McCain, Specter)

Treaties ratified ...

Treaty 12 : Treaty Doc No. 108-7 : Protocol of 1997 amending MARPOL Convention
Protocol of 1997 to Amend the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, as modified by the Protocol of 1978 thereto

Treaties 12 & 14 on the Executive Calendar taken up, and the resoultions of ratification were agreed to. An interesting charde on the floor of the Senate, as the presiding officer (Hagel) on a division vote (ratification only) called for those in favor to stand, then those opposed, then announced "2/3rds the Senators voting in the affirmative" or similar (indicting a full house), "the Resolutions of Ratification are agreed to." Senator McConnell thanked the chair for the creative ruling, I think McCaonnell and Hagel were the only two Senators in the chamber.

Senate Resolutions Passed ...

S.Res.439 - National Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week

S.Res.440 - Congratulates 2006 United States Winter Olympic Teams

Bill read and passed ...

H.R.3351 - To make technical corrections to laws relating to Native Americans

House Concurrent Reolution Agreed to ...

H.Con.Res.366 - Congratulating NASA

Nominations confirmed ...

Nominations PN1332-1335 (Coast Guard)

The Senate will be open to accept reports of Committees and other business, from 10 AM to noon on Friday, April 20, 2006.

Order of business for Monday, April 24, 2006, 2:00 PM ...

H.R.4939 - Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Votes (likely, amendments) on this bill to occur on Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, may vote on two nominations for District Court:
Patrick Schiltz - MN
Gray Miller - TX