Thursday, December 14, 2006

Interlude Twixt Congresses

Starting this post with no idea of where it's headed. As usual, my sources are,, and Bear with me in the (likely) event that this post never obtains a coherent theme.

Senator Leahy summarizes his plans for the 110th Congress, and if he's true to his word (I have no reason to doubt him), the next two years are going to be "interesting."

Leahy promises 'real' oversight of FBI
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer

... Leahy said he would also deal with what he says are the administration's human rights abuses by creating a new subcommittee focused on legislation on such issues as torture and detainee treatment. Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois will chair the new panel, Leahy said.


Here is another interesting development, in a completely different direction but also from a long-standing member of the U.S. Senate.

Byrd to give up W.Va. projects
By ELLYN FERGUSON - Gannett News Service

... In a joint statement, Byrd and Obey said, "There are no good options available to us to complete the unfinished work of the Republican Congress. There will be no congressional earmarks in the joint funding resolution that we will pass. We will place a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place."

What? No earmarks?! Whoa. Democrats doing better than Republicans at controlling spending? Heh. I doubt it, but this sure comes off that way, and foregoing earmarks is a welcome development.


Judge Roberts dismissed Hamdan's case, and interpreted Congress's statute relating to habeas corpus. The opinion is a short read, html version here for the pdf averse. It's a safe bet that this decision, "Hamdan II," will be appealed.


The ACLU has a classified document, and the government is using grand jury powers to compel the recovery of it. Rumor has it that the document refers to "torture."

Interesting in several regards. The government seems to know who provided the secret (classified) document to the ACLU; the government using grand jury subpoena as a confiscatory tool rather than an investigatory tool; and the mystery of the contents of the memo. Jack Balkin's take is, as usual, thought-provoking reading.

Link to ACLU's Motion to Quash GJ Subpoena (1Mb pdf).

Bobby Chesney's National Security Law Blog has links to more of the documents.

McConnell Announces Republican Committee Assignments
December 13, 2006


Press Gaggle by Tony Snow and Nicholas Burns
December 18, 2006

Q ... Was there any problem between -- as far as India accepting of the congressional passage of this? [India Civil Nuclear Law]

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: We had to explain to the Indians that when Congress writes a bill, there are operative paragraphs and there are non-operative -- non-binding provisions of any bill. ...

Q Nick, what's your understanding of why Congress inserted in the bill a requirement that the President certify there's no transfer of India nuclear technology to Iran? Why is there that concern? ...

Q I guess you were sort of implying that the provision about Iran was causing some consternation or some concern with the Indians. When you went over there, what were you talking about and what, specifically, was their concern?

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: Well, we've had a conversation with the Indians for the last year-and-half on the question of Iran. Now, India is a great country, it's a sovereign state, it's going to make its own decisions. ...

Q Is the Iranian provision binding or non-binding in the law?

UNDERSECRETARY BURNS: Well, I believe the one that -- I believe the one is a non-binding provision. It's a sense of the Congress ...


The classified document that the government was angling to retrieve via subpoena has been declassified, and the effort to retrieve it from the ACLU has been dropped.

Prosecutors Drop A.C.L.U. Subpoena in Document Fight
By ADAM LIPTAK - December 19, 2006

In an opaque and defensive four-page letter to the judge in the case, the prosecutors said they were acting in light of changed circumstances and their determination that the grand jury can obtain the evidence necessary to its investigation from other sources. ...

The document itself, declassified Friday and released by the A.C.L.U. yesterday, was not obviously confidential. ... The document collected a number of policies concerning photographs of enemy prisoners of war.

The link includes tracks to the court papers, hearing transcript, and the previously classified government document. There is no word as to whether or not the government will prosecute the government employee who leaked the paper to the ACLU in the first place.


Jackson lawyer Michael Wallace said he will ask President Bush on Tuesday to withdraw his nomination to the the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

More (and room for comments) at


Matthew J. Franck's piece, Ford, the Court, and Impeachment, is a good read - not just because I too take Hamilton, Story and Franck's side of the "cause for impeachment" argument.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Final week of the 109th Congress

A week of do-nothing, that's my prediction. Well, other than the Ag-appropriations bill that is due for being taken up by unanimous consent, including a drought-relief bill for mid-western farmers and ranchers.

  • Appropriations bills (H.R.5384, Agriculture, first)
  • Continuing resolution (in lieu of the remaining appropriations bills)
  • Free trade agreements (Viet Nam and a couple of South American countries)
  • Tax (relief) extenders
  • Confirmation hearings and vote for Robert Gates to be Secretary of Defense

Monday the 4th was a "nothing day" (prayer, pledge, adjourn), and the Senate isn't planning to resume regular business until noon, Tuesday, the 5th. The first vote is expected to be on Conrad's farmer/rancher relief amendment, with that coming at 5 PM Tuesday. Senator Landrieu has also proposed several amendments to H.R. 5384, and obtained a 10 minute speaking slot.

Earmaking Kansas - Washington Prowler

Look for Sen. Pat Roberts to gain an Appropriations Committee slot in the coming Congress as he shifts off the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sources in Republican leadership say that Sen. Orrin Hatch will move over from Judiciary to Intelligence in place of Roberts.


President Bush Accepts Ambassador John Bolton's Resignation

I am deeply disappointed that a handful of United States Senators prevented Ambassador Bolton from receiving the up or down vote he deserved in the Senate. They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time. This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their Nation.

President Bush Meets with United Nations Ambassador John Bolton

THE PRESIDENT: I received the resignation of Ambassador John Bolton. I accepted. I'm not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed. And the reason why I think he deserved to be confirmed is because I know he did a fabulous job for the country.

And I want to thank you and Gretchen for serving in a very important position, and doing so in a way that a lot of Americans really appreciate, John. We're going to miss you in this administration. You've been a stalwart defender of freedom and peace. You've been strong in your advocacy for human rights and human dignity. You've done everything that can be expected for an Ambassador. And I accept your letter, and I wish you and Gretchen all the very best.




Bolton to leave as U.S. ambassador to U.N.
By Steve Holland - Reuters

While there was much speculation in Washington that Bush might give Bolton another position that did not require Senate confirmation, Bolton's departure letter to the president appeared to close the door on that option.

"After careful consideration I have concluded that my service in your administration should end when the current recess appointment expires," Bolton wrote.

I wonder if things would have worked out differently had President Bush expressed outrage back in May and June of 2005, when the Senate chose to obstruct the Bolton nomination.

The Gang of 14 had completed and introduced their Memorandum of Understanding on May 23, 2005.

Senate Debate - May 25, 2005
Senate Debate - May 26, 2005 : Part I - Part II

Mr. FRIST. ... John Bolton, the very first issue to which we turned, we got what to me looks like a filibuster. It certainly sounds like a filibuster, looking at the vote today, it quacks like a filibuster, and I am afraid, shortly after we thought we had things working together in this body again, we have another filibuster, this time on another nomination--not a judicial nomination but another nomination--the nomination of John Bolton.

Senator Frist, what are you going to do about it?

Senate Debate - June 20, 2005

On Page S6802, immediately following the June 20 failure to obtain cloture on proceeding to vote on the nomination of John Bolton, the Congressional Record contains the following:

Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate return to legislative session.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The first casualty of the Gang-of-14 and limp-wristed Senate leadership. More casualties were to follow, not to mention the institutionalization of the 60 vote hurdle to obtain confirmation. Nary a peep from the President, nary a peep from the public, and the Senate, well, obviously it prefers to bury its weakness in vocal self-praise.


Nomination Sent to the Senate

Robert M. Gates, of Texas, to be Secretary of Defense, vice Donald Henry Rumsfeld, resigned.

Senate Armed Services Committee - Hearings on Robert Gates
Scheduled for 9:30 AM, Tuesday, September 5

The Senate doesn't open until noon Tuesday, making a possibility that C-SPAN2 will cover the Gates hearings. Pre-link to prepared statement, as of noon, December 4, no statement has been entered.

Gates will easily be confirmed. I expect no significant opposition.


The Senate's Executive Calendar of December 5, 2006 contains the following Judicial nominations. The number is the calendar number, and the date indicated is the date the nominee was moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    CONFIRMED 12/8  Kent A. Jordan - 3rd Circuit    Sept 26

        918     Philip S. Gutierrez - C.D.CA    Sept 21
        919     Valerie L. Baker - C.D.CA       Sept 21
        921     Lawrence J. O'Neil - E.D.CA     Sept 21
        925     John A. Jarvey - S.D.IA         Sept 26
        926     Sara E. Lioi - N.D.OH           Sept 26
        985     Marcia M. Howard - M.D.FL       Sept 29
        986     Leslie Southwick - S.D.MS       Sept 29
        987     Gregory K. Frizzell - N.D.OK    Sept 29
        988     Lisa G. Wood - S.D.GA           Sept 29
        989     Robert J. Jonker - W.D.MI       Sept 29
        990     Paul L. Maloney - W.D.MI        Sept 29
        991     Janet T. Neff - W.D.MI          Sept 29
        992     Nora B. Fischer - W.D.PA        Sept 29

I expect a series of confirmations by unanimous consent and calendar number, at some point, rather than debate and voice votes. I don't expect any of the nominations held in the Judiciary Committee to be moved out - that would include a number of Circuit Court nominations held-up by the Gang-of-14, of course, with assistance from Senate-leader Frist.

New Senate leader's shortened recesses could cut off Bush judicial nominees
Robert Novak - December 3, 2006

Reid's schedule [for the 110th Senate] limits Senate recesses to one week. Recess appointments usually are made only when Congress has been out of session for at least 10 days. That may kill any consideration of trying to seat federal appeals court judges whose nominations had been stalled even in the Republican-controlled Senate. The downside may be a rebellion by senators if their breaks are held to one week.

This is a manufactured "issue." President Bush has never made a recess appointment of a judge, and I doubt he has any intention of starting the practice now. But, President Bush has made a number of non-judicial recess appointments, John Bolton and Julie Myers being two more prominent ones. Julie Myers is Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, her nomination being reported out of committee on Oct 7 and Nov 7, 2005, and her recess appointment occurring on January 4, 2006 - along with 17 other recess appointments.

UPDATE @ Dec 5

Hearings for the nomination of Robert Gates to be Secretary of Defense are being broadcast on C-SPAN2 -- but only until the Senate comes into session at noon.

Advance Policy Questions for Dr. Robert M. Gates HTML

UPDATE @ 12:14

Frist - final week of the 109th Senate

  1. Gates nomination [confirmed 12/6]
  2. Continuing resolution [passed 12/8]
  3. Tax, trade, and health extenders [passed 12/9]
  4. US India Civil Nuclear Bill now in conferees hands [passed 12/10]
  5. Bioterrorism bill - improvements and ability to anticipate and react to bioterror attacks [S.3678 passed on 12/5]
  6. Vietnam trade agreement, if House complete it [passed 12/9]
  7. Straightline programmatic extensions
  8. Nominations that are agreed to

This afternoon, Ag Appropriations bill
- Conrad - point of order is expected
- Vote on motion to waive emergency designation point of order expected at 5 PM this afternoon

Frist notes that the most challenging and difficult part of his tenure was judicial filibusters. This came very close to disrupting the Senate's relationship with Executive and Judicial branches Senate traditions were damaged, but have now been resolved.

He correctly notes that 108th and 109th Congresses were the first time cloture had been (ab)used to stop judicial nominees. In response to this, the Senate sought to invoke the Constitutional Option in order that each nominee would get an up or down vote. Important Senate traditions were restored when the Senate agreed to limit the use of cloture except in the case of extraordinary circumstances. Since then, the Democrats have not abused cloture. If the Senate hadn't put the Constitutional option on the table, the logjam would not have been broken.

Frist's speech makes me want to gag.

He made another speech on the 8th ...

Without the promise of the constitutional option, I have no doubt that future generations would look at the 109th Congress as a negative turning point for the Senate. A turning point in which, through our passivity, we allowed a laudable Senate tradition to trump Senate duty as defined in the Constitution. ...

Just yesterday, President Bush accepted John Bolton's resignation from his post as Ambassador to the United Nations. A man eminently qualified to articulate the position of the United States--and yet a minority of my colleagues refused to grant him an up-or-down vote.

They refused to take a decisive stand--yea or nay. And in so doing, they abdicated their constitutional duty of advice and consent.

And there are others. Ten circuit court nominees still await a definitive vote, as do 21 district court nominees. And some have waited years. Not months, and certainly not days: but years.

Senator Reid was comical in rebuttal (back on the 5th) ...

One of the negative things that happened in my political career was having to oppose the nuclear option. I said at the time, I say today, the most important thing I have ever worked on in my governmental career is the nuclear option because it was so anti-Senate, so antigovernment. I said in the Senate, why are you doing this? Why are you doing this, my friends, the Republicans? It would take a miracle for us to retake the Senate. As a result of the nuclear option and the other very bad things this Republican-dominated Senate did, the miracle occurred. One reason it occurred is because of the nuclear option. The American people knew that was beyond the pale.

And again (but not comical) on the 8th ...

The nuclear option was the most important issue I have worked on in my public life. Its rejection was my proudest moment as minority leader. I emerged from the episode with a renewed appreciation for the majesty of Senate rules.

UPDATE @ 14:34

Senator Conrad asserts that the Senate won't follow through with completing the amending, debating and voting on the underlying Ag appropriations bill. Interesting. I wonder how it will be disposed of.

He waxes on, defending go ahead with the debate on the rancher/farmer relief package anyway, and to take the vote on the point of order relating to the emergency designation of the bill, to demonstrate the degree of resolve in the Senate.

UPDATE @ 14:56

Senator Gregg claims "as much time as the other side has consumed," to follow at the completion of Senators Conrad (5 more minutes), Dorgan (20 minutes), and Landrieu (10 minutes). This sets up the next hour and 20 minutes or so of debate - running to about 4:30 PM.

UPDATE @ 15:44

Motion to waive Section 402 (emergency designation point of order) presented by Senator Conrad. Roll call vote to happen "at the designated time."

UPDATE @ 16:31

Vitter/Nelson Amendment No. 5151 was introduced, relating to the reimportation of prescription drugs. Looks as though the plan is to lard up this Ag appropriations bill over the course of the next day or so. Makes one wonder what will pass "in the background," while most eyes are distracted by this trivial drivel.

UPDATE @ 17:38

The motion to waive the emergency designation point of order against
CONRAD Amendment No. 5205 for drought relief for ranchers and farmers, was
REJECTED on a 57 - 37 vote. (60 votes needed to waive)
GOP votes to waive: Bond, Burns, Domenici, Grassley, Roberts, Stevens, Enzi, Hagel, Hutchison (RPC chair), Smith, DeWine, Cochran, Coleman, Talent, Thomas, Thune
DEM votes against: Lincoln, Pryor

The Senate will wrap up the day in morning business:

- Conrad 2 minutes
- Specter 20 minutes
- Byrd 20 minutes
- Landrieu 10 minutes
- Voinovich 20 minutes
- DeWine 60 minutes

UPDATE @ 18:01

Specter will talk about appropriations bills being "left behind." In particular, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. He thinks it is regrettable that the Senate not take these up.

Senator Specter is also disappointed that the Senate will not take up revisions to FISA, to address the administration's terrorist surveillance program. He's pretty much got a laundry list of what wasn't done - sort of playing up the "do nothing."

Senator Burr comes in, asks for a 30 second interruption, and the Senate passes S.3678 - Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, with an amendment, by unanimous consent. That takes care of item No. 5 on Frist's to-do list.

Specter introduces an act to modify the habeas corpus provisions recently passed in the Military Commissions Act. Seems a bit of a waste of time at this point, but it does serve as a marker for the 110th Senate. Specter says that he believes the Courts will strike down the habeas corpus provisions as passed a few weeks ago. He is also amazed that people with claims of being tortured are prohibited from raising these allegations in Court. "S.4081 - Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2006"

Senator Byrd says one of the most important functions of the Congress is to carefully decide how to spend the taxpayers dollars. Hahahahah. He is going to complain that the Senate is not passing appropriations bills, but is using the continuing resolution mechanism instead. He correctly notes that the Appropriations Committee discharged all the bills by July 26.

UPDATE @ 20:15

Frist closes down the Senate. He filed a cloture motion on the nomination of Commissioner for the FDA, Andrew von Eschenbach, of Texas. The cloture vote is scheduled for Thursday morning, unless the Senate comes to a unanimous consent agreement that provides for a vote on the nomination at a date and time certain.

The Senate will begin consideration of the nomination of Robert Gates at 11:30 AM Wednesday, following 2 hours of morning business.

UPDATE @ Dec 6

US Institute of Peace has been working with Iraqis since early 2004 to reduce interethnic and interreligious violence, speed up stabilization and democratization, and reduce the need for a U.S. presence in Iraq.

US Institute of Peace - Reports Page
Nov '06: Jordan and Iraq: Between Cooperation and Crisis
Oct '06: Scenarios for the Insurgency in Iraq
Nov '05: Iran and Iraq: The Shia Connection, Soft Power, and the Nuclear Factor

Expert Working Groups and Military Senior Advisor Panel ...

  • Admiral James O. Ellis, Jr. - United States Navy, Retired
  • General John M. Keane - United States Army, Retired
  • General Edward C. Meyer - United States Army, Retired
  • General Joseph W. Ralston - United States Air Force, Retired
  • Lieutenant General Roger C. Schultz, Sr. - United States Army, Retired


Paraphrase of President Bush's remarks at 8:00 AM ...

"The report gives a tough assessment. It brings some very interesting proposals. We will take every proposal seriously, and will act in a timely fashion. The Commission is headed to Congress, and I urge Congress to take it seriously. I don't agree with everything in the report, and Congress won't either.

"The public is tired of pure political bickering ... the report is an opportunity to find common ground. Not for the good of the Republican party or the Democrat party, but for the good of the country.

"I thank the members of the Iraq Study Group for their effort, for coming back into public service. We applaud your work. I take it very seriously, and we will act on it in a timely fashion."

Remarks by the President After Receiving Report from the Iraq Study Group

I told the members that this report, called "The Way Forward," will be taken very seriously by this administration. This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion.

The commission is headed up to Congress, and I urge the members of Congress to take this report seriously. While they won't agree with every proposal -- and we probably won't agree with every proposal -- it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue.

The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together. And I understand how difficult that is, but this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country -- not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country.


A couple of District Court nominations sent to the Senate yesterday. It'll be interesting to see if they are confirmed in the 109th Senate. Nothing of major import (unless you are Fred Kapala of Heidi Pasichow), just a curiosity to see if the Senate Judiciary moves quickly on these "late" nominations, contrasted with the confirmation velocity granted to certain others.

  • Frederick J. Kapala, of Illinois, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, vice Philip G. Reinhard, retiring.
  • Heidi M. Pasichow, of the District of Columbia, to be an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for the term of fifteen years, vice Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, elevated.

UPDATE @ 9:35

Senator Ensign opens with plans for the day.

Morning business to 11:30 - expect talks of Senator retirements
11:30 take up nomination of Gates - vote planned for later today
12:30 - 14:15 Policy luncheons

Reminder of Thursday cloture vote for confirmation FDA Commissioner

HR 6143 - amended and passed on unanimous consent
HR 4510 - amended and passed on unanimous consent
S 4080 - read for a second time and placed on the calendar

UPDATE @ 11:08

Iraq Study Group Report - abut 1.8 Mb PDF file
Alternate Link (at Baker Institute)

Iraq Study Group Report in HTML

UPDATE @ 13:51

Hmm. From Redstate ...

I Am Profoundly Disappointed in Bob Corker

... Senator-Elect Corker has chosen to join the Republican Mainstreet Partnership.

The RMP is an advocate of campaign finance reform, demand side economic policy, tax increases, and other liberal agenda items. After the election, the Executive Director of the RMP put out a press release saying that the results of the 2006 election were proof that the American public did not want Republicans beholden to the "far right."

Other Senators in the RMSP are Chafee (lost election), Coleman, Collins, Isakson, McCain, Smith, Snowe, and Specter. It would appear that the liberal wing of the GOP-Senate didn't gained much ground in trading Chafee for Corker. Here is an RMSP self-summary ...

The Republican Main Street Partnership (RMSP) is dedicated to promoting and building the Republican Party as a thoughtful, fiscally conservative, inclusive "Governing Majority," where political debate is encouraged to promote common sense solutions to improve the lives of all Americans. Embracing the full spectrum of Republican ideologies and values in order to build coalitions, RMSP is the largest organization of elected Traditional Ronald Reagan Republicans in the nation, with over 60 members serving in the U.S. House and Senate. For more information on RMSP, visit our website at

If you like that, you'll love their press release, Far Right Soley Responsible for Democratic Gains

Well, at least the RMSP is on the record as being in charge of the election performance of the GOP from here on out, since they've kicked the "Far Right" off the bus. But as far as I'm concerned, Republicans the likes of the short list above are indistinguishable from Democrats, and I wouldn't give them the time of day. In fact, I do what I can to undermine their causes, and their fortunes at the ballot box.

UPDATE @ 14:37

Hutchison asks to move H.R. 5385 (Military Housing, Veterans Affairs) to conference (this passed the Senate on November 14), and is met with objection by Senator DeMint. This is a matter of not taking up any appropriations bill for the balance of the 109th Congress, as a matter of avoiding earmarks. DeMint concedes, and Hutchison obtains conferees to take the bill to conference, and submit a conference report to the Senate for consideration. She promises to work all night to get the conference report completed.

UPDATE @ 17:28

Robert Gates was
CONFIRMED to the position of Secretary of Defense on a 95 - 02 vote.
NAY votes: Bunning, Santorum

As a matter of comparison, Donald Rumsfeld was confirmed without a roll call vote, on January 20, 2001. The link there is to the appropriate section of the Congressional Record. Words of praise for Rumsfeld from Senators Durbin and Levin, for example. Check it out.

UPDATE @ 17:36

Senator Chambliss put the Senate into morning business, I assume to consume the rest of business today. Senator Chambliss gives praise to the service of Donald Rumsfeld. Hear hear.

Senator Santorum explains why he voted against the confirmation of Robert Gates. His objection centers on a failure to identify the enemy as Radical Islamic Fascism, which exists globally, except perhaps on the continent of Antarctica.

He also knocks the Iraq Study Group, for sidestepping that Iran and Syria are the primary sources of conflict - and the President's advisors tend to say either that the United States lacks the resources to confront Iran, or that Iran can be enlisted as an aide in "Iraq, the front in our war on terror." He also knocks the media for avoiding the issue. Good speech by Santorum.

"Baker Hamilton report is a prescription for surrender."

"Our troops in Iraq are being killed by Iranian weapons today paid for with Iranian money smuggled into Iraq by Iranian logistics and utilized by Iranian-trained terrorists."

"Iran is the centerpiece in the assault against us and other countries in the civilized world, which is why I fought so hard for passage of the Iran Freedom and Support Act... we should not be negotiating with Iran, we should be confronting Iran."

"We shrink from the recognition of identifying the enemy and confronting them, whether they be the Islamic fascists led by Iran or the socialist rulers of North Korea and Venezuela. We are sleep-walking through the storm, as we have done in the past. We pretend it is not happening or that it is simply because of the incompetency of the current administration or of a member of that administration."

"This is the call of this generation. This is America's hour. This is the hour that we need leadership, Churchillian leadership, who had a keen eye for the enemy and a resolve in spite of the political climate to confront it. I ask my colleagues to stand and make this America's finest hour. I regret that the new Secretary of Defense is not up to the task, in my opinion. I hope others are."

Sounded rather like a preacher, in tone.

UPDATE @ 23:00

From December 6 Senate Hearing on FBI Oversight ...

For two-and-a-half years under two different Chairmen, this Committee attempted to get a copy of the transcript of a meeting at issue in the allegations of FBI whistleblower Michael German. According to the DOJ Inspector General, Special Agent German was retaliated against by the FBI for reporting mismanagement and misconduct within the FBI. German claimed that the transcript of the secretly recorded meeting shows that a domestic and an international terrorist group were beginning to meet to discuss the possibility of mutual operational ties. According to German, FBI officials denied that the meeting occurred, denied that it had been recorded, and denied that it involved subjects associated with terrorist groups, all in an effort to discredit his allegations of mismanagement and misconduct. Earlier this year, the Committee received a copy of this transcript, and it is a lot closer to what Michael German described than what the FBI described. Unfortunately, that's just more of the same from the FBI.

The FBI's criminal investigations often contain valuable intelligence, such as this information about initial contacts between domestic and foreign terrorist groups exploring the possibility of operational ties. However, it is difficult to see how this information can be effectively shared with the rest of intelligence community when the culture of the FBI continues to allow managers to hide information like this and deny, both internally and publicly, that it even exists. And all of this without any consequences for the managers involved. If our nation is to be safe, then at some point the FBI needs make it clear that protecting the Bureau's reputation is not as important is getting the right information into the hands of the right people at the right time.

And from the AP ...

Later, Mueller also said the FBI could better fight terrorists if authorities had stronger subpoena power to determine if threats are valid, and if search and surveillance tools granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court could be expanded.

The expanded authority that Mueller is seeking is to remove the requirement, under FISA, that the investigator is seeking foreign intelligence information. His point being that some terrorists are citizens (or some citizens are terrorists), and getting a warrant takes too long.

Senate passes judicial security bill and sends it to conference committee - H.R. 1751 : Secure Access to Justice and Court Protection Act

Daily Digest - December 6, 2006

Senate began consideration of the nomination of Kent A. Jordan, of Delaware, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Third Circuit.

A motion was entered to close further debate on the nomination, and, in accordance with the provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a vote on cloture may occur on Friday, December 8, 2006.

UPDATE @ Dec 7

Senate takes up nomination of FDA Commissioner - motion to invoke cloture to be voted on at about 10:30 - 10:45. Votes on other matters are planned for later today.

Harry Reid says there is no need for a cloture vote on the FDA Commissioner, as the DEMs will agree to a vote at a time certain. Reid notes that the Senate could work Saturday, Frist says the Senate will gavel to adjourn on Friday. Says too that the change to DEM leadership is viewed with some trepidation, by the GOP.

LOL. Senator Frist is touting the ban on internet gambling as a move to values that is prototypical of GOP action. He has a more formal statement entered in the record. Reid's offer to dispense with the cloture vote is not taken, because he didn't offer a unanimous consent agreement to vote at a time certain.

One hour of debate on the nomination before the cloture vote. Commissioner of FDA has been a bone of contention with some of the women Senators, who demanded FDA approval of RU-486 ("Plan B") for over the counter sale. That same issue has DeMint blocking the nomination. But that is not the only objection to the nomination.

Senate to try to force vote on Bush's FDA pick

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa says the FDA has failed to fully cooperate with his investigation of a Sanofi-Aventis antibiotic, Ketek, and reports of liver failure. FDA officials say they have been responsive.

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has opposed a confirmation vote because of concerns about the safety of the abortion pill known as RU-486 or Mifeprex. Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana has said he will oppose a vote until prescription drug imports are legalized.

Senator Grassley is HOT against this nominee, as an example of lack of cooperation from the executive branch. It's not okay for the executive to block access to information, says Grassley.

Could be a failed cloture vote - interesting if it plays out that way, as the DEMs would be able to blame the GOP for scuttling the nomination (see Reid's "offer" to skip the cloture vote).

UPDATE @ 11:18

The cloture vote to move to advise and consent on the nomination of Andrew von Eschenbach to the post of Commissioner of the FDA, was
PASSED on a 89 - 06 vote.
NAY votes: Baucus, Vitter, Grassley, DeWine, DeMint, Voinovich

UPDATE @ 11:52

Debate on the Confirmation of Robert Gates: Part I - Part II

Santorum's "confront Iran" speech from last evening. I also corrected and augmented the quotes I selected while listening to his speech, above.

UPDATE @ 14:00

Extended quorum calls, just another "normal week" in the US Senate. Tough to tell what is being set up for "mass voice vote passage" before adjournment sine die, sometime Friday, but yesterday, amendments were proposed and not tabled for the following bills, all of which were passed as amended:

  • H.R. 6143, to amend title XXVI of the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend the program for providing life-saving care for those with HIV AIDS. [Passed Senate 12/6]
  • H.R. 4588, to reauthorize grants for and require applied water supply research regarding the water resources research and technology institutes established under the Water Resources Research Act of 1984. [Passed Senate 12/6]
  • S. 2735, to amend the National Dam Safety Program Act to reauthorize the national dam safety program, and for other purposes. [Passed Senate 12/6]
  • H. Con. Res. 430, recognizing the accomplishments of the American Council of Young Political Leaders for providing 40 years of international exchange programs, increasing international dialogue, and enhancing global understanding, and commemorating its 40th anniversary. [Passed Senate 12/6]
  • S. 1876, to provide that attorneys employed by the Department of Justice shall be eligible for compensatory time off for travel under section 5550b of title 5, United States Code. [Passed Senate 12/6]
  • H.R. 1751, to amend title 18, United States Code, to protect judges, prosecutors, witnesses, victims, and their family members, and for other purposes. [Passed Senate on 12/6]
  • S. 2653, to direct the Federal Communications Commission to make efforts to reduce telephone rates for Armed Forces personnel deployed overseas. [Passed Senate on 12/6]
  • H.R. 864, to provide for programs and activities with respect to the prevention of underage drinking. [Passed Senate on 12/6]
  • H.R. 4075, to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to provide for better understanding and protection of marine mammals, and for other purposes. [Passed Senate on 12/6]
  • S. 3821, to authorize certain athletes to be admitted temporarily into the United States to compete or perform in an athletic league, competition, or performance. [Passed Senate on 12/6]
The adjournment resolution hasn't surfaced yet, but it's apt to follow the pattern of H.Con.Res.531 of December 2004. A more complex example (moving from 1st to 2nd session of a given Congress) is H.Con.Res.326 of December 2005.

UPDATE @ 14:18

Senator Warner talking about how he'll miss Senator Allen, and describing his (Warner's) various life experiences as a Senator. Whatever business is being conducted, is being conducted out of sight.

Senator Nelson of Florida takes over at about 2:26 PM, and says that the next Congress will take up a Water Resources Development Act - and also that Senator Frist is scheduled to speak at 2:30.

UPDATE @ 14:33

C-SPAN2 indicating that Senator Frist will be making his farewell address, and also that Vice President Cheney will be in the chamber.

UPDATE @ 15:26

VP Cheney occupies "the Chair" in the Senate. Frist starts in, and notes that carving his initials in the desk drawer is a durable artifact of his tenure. He is reflecting on his 12 years as a Senator, who came in full of hope with no political experience. This speech is forgettable, basically giving gratitude to Senators of both parties and expressing the great value of the Senate.

Senator Frist's speech included advocacy of basic decency, and lamented the short-term (election to election) outlook of the Congress. He finishes at 2:57, to rousing applause.

Senator Reid, "parting really is such sweet sorrow." Talks up the role of the Senate as that of a doctor, helping people. Reid finishes his "thanks to Frist" at 3:05, also to applause.

Senator McConnell indicates gratitude to Senator Reid for being on the floor to listen to and remark on Senator Frist's speech, then goes on to praise Senator Frist as an accomplished doctor, and accomplished citizen legislator. He finished his remarks at 15:10.

Senator Durbin joins in "the salutary chorus" for Senator Frist, followed by remarks from Senator Kennedy.

The Senate moves on to consider, amend and pass H.R. 5946 - Stevens-Inouye International Fisheries Monitoring and Compliance Legacy Act of 2006.

Senator Domenici speaks to Senator Frist, hoping to get his remarks in before Senator Frist leaves the chamber. After the long goodbye, a hug. And a return to quorum call.

UPDATE @ 16:44

Senator Specter speaks to the departure of Senators Frist and Santorum. He notes that Rick advocated well for the values he believes in - he spoke his mind and heart, a rare quality in public life. He says too, that he and Rick have a good personal relationship outside of the Senate.

He urges the Senate to move ahead to confirm nominee Jordan for the 3rd Circuit (a cloture motion was filed Wednesday), as well as 13 judges for District Court openings. All of these represent judicial emergencies. Senator Specter hopes that the 110th Congress approaches nominations differently from the 109th, and further that the White House consult with the Senate before advancing nominees. Nominees must pass muster by both parties. Bah to that, Arlen.

He introduces a couple of bills, or their substance, for discussion purposes and comment, looking ahead to the 100th Congress.

UPDATE @ 17:26

Senator Santorum made his last speech as a Senator - talked of his family, his aids in the Senate, reflected on legislative accomplishments that are the work of his aids, not of himself.

S. 843 - Combating Autism. Asked for concurrence with the House amendment, and to pass as amended. Without objection, the Senate passed "Combating Autism" bill. He thanked Senator Dodd and others for this.

Senator Santorum closes by saying he feels blessed.

Senator McConnell extends kudos for the moving farewell address, and says "Good luck, and God speed." I think Mitch has a bit of a lump in his throat.

The following bills were amended and passed:

  • H.R.6111 - Haiti Economic and Infrastructure Reconstruction Act
  • H.R.5782 - Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006
  • H.R.5076 - National Transportation Safety Board Amendments Act of 2006
  • H.R.6342 - Veterans Programs Extension Act of 2006
  • S.4042 - to prohibit disruptions of funerals of members or former members of the Armed Forces (held at desk)
  • S.4091 - to provide authority for restoration of the Social Security Trust Funds from the effects of a clerical error, and for other purposes (held at desk)

The vote on Andrew von Eschenbach to the post of Commissioner of the FDA is scheduled for 5:45 PM.

UPDATE @ 18:31

Andrew von Eschenbach was
CONFIRMED to the post of Commissioner of the FDA on a 80 - 11 vote.
NAY votes: Baucus, Brownback, DeMint, DeWine, Grassley, Inhofe, Santorum, Snowe, Talent, Vitter, and Voinovich.

The Senate moves to morning business.

UPDATE @ 19:19

Senators DeWine and Byrd discussion regarding the Gang-of-14 as though it was a good, nay, GREAT event, and DeWine hopes the tradition embodied in that memorandum will persist.

UPDATE @ Dec 8

Senator Bunning opens, noting 10:30 AM vote on cloture, and a hope that the Senate will move directly then to vote on Jordan to be a Justice in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The "hot" issues for Congress are still bottled up in the House. Senator Frist will keep the Senate in session (into the weekend) until these are completed ...

  • Trade normalization for Viet Nam and other countries [passed 12/9]
  • Tax (relief) extenders [passed 12/9]
  • Continuing resolution for keeping the government running [passed 12/8]
  • US India civil nuclear agreement

Senator Frist's and Santorum's farewell speeches
Senator Santorum's farewell speech continued
Senator Allen's farewell speech

Senator Smith's comments relating to the war in Iraq are worth reading. I don't agree with him, but he has a point of view shared by many.

IRAQ -- (Senate - December 07, 2006)

Yet as I feel that, I remember the pride I felt when the statue of Saddam Hussein came down. I remember the thrill I felt when three times Iraqis risked their own lives to vote democratically in a way that was internationally verifiable as well as legitimate and important. Now all of those memories seem much like ashes to me. ...

I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore. I believe we need to figure out how to fight the war on terror and to do it right. So either we clear and hold and build, or let's go home. ...

Those are my feelings. I regret them. I would have never voted for this conflict had I reason to believe that the intelligence we had was not accurate. ...

Senator Smith is in a real jam now, because there will always be reason to believe that intelligence is "not accurate." No intelligence is perfect.

His comments are nonetheless, again I say, worth a read. He invokes Churchill for various propositions, and I do believe that Churchill recognized the scope of a looming threat - but while Islam was not a looming threat to Western Civilization in Churchill's day (other interests were eying war), it appears to be at least a looming threat today.

UPDATE @ 10:00

If cloture is invoked, 2 hours of debate, then move directly to vote on Jordan. This schedule (contingent on invoking cloture) is agreed to by unanimous consent.

The following matters were handled as noted ...

  • S.3110 was placed on the calendar - A bill to suspend temporarily the duty on bulb seals, slat cove.
  • H.R.6131 was passed - To permit certain expenditures from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund.
  • H.R.1674 was passed - United States Tsunami Warning and Education Act

UPDATE @ 11:02

The cloture vote to move to advise and consent on the nomination of Kent Jordan as a Justice for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, was
PASSED on a 93 - 00 vote.

UPDATE @ 11:30

Two hours of debate underway. Senator Leahy rises and summarizes his objections to WH nomination practices, and his objections to various nominees on a nominee-by-nominee basis. If you follow judicial nominations, none of what Senator Leahy is saying is "new" to him, nearly all of it has been stated before in various statements issued before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Perhaps new is his suggestion that Smith and Myers should have been swapped, so that Smith at least could have been confirmed.

He notes that Jordan could have been confirmed months ago, and that without conducting a cloture vote. Jordan was nominated on June 28, and moved out of Committee on September 26.

Hahahah - Leahy's demeanor was a hoot as he sarcastically described the GOP putting holds on nominees, then hitting the campaign trail and blaming the lack of nomination progress on the Democrats.

Our success in this process depends on the White House sending consensus nominees, as opposed to the highly controversial nominees it sent the Senate repeatedly. I was encouraged by President Bush's pledge after the election to work with Congress in a bipartisan and cooperative way. But I was disappointed barely a week later when he broke that pledge and renominated a slate of his most controversial nominees who had failed to win confirmation, even under a Republican-controlled Senate. If they could not win confirmation when the Republicans were in control, my guess--I can't speak for other Senators--but my guess, with a Democratic chairman and Democratic-controlled Senate, they probably will not win confirmation there either. If they weren't good enough for the Republicans, they probably won't be good enough for the Democrats.

When Leahy completes speaking, the following Senators have time, under a unanimous consent agreement:

  • Senator Conrad for 5 minutes
  • Senator Gregg for 15 minutes
  • Senator DeWine for 15 minutes
  • Senator Carper for 10 minutes

Jordan's confirmation vote will start at about 1 PM.

UPDATE @ 14:40

Kent Jordan was
CONFIRMED as a Justice for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on a 91 - 00 vote.

The Circuit Court Nominations Summary has been updated. The Senate left 4 Circuit Court nominations stranded from all the way back to the 1st Session of the 109th Congress (roughly calendar year 2005, but some of those 4 had been nominated in the 108th Congress), and left 6 stranded from the 2nd session. 16 of 26 Circuit Court nominees were given an up or down vote.


Senator DeMint asked unanimous consent to proceed to and pass S.4047 - A bill to prohibit the issuance of transportation security cards to individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes. His request was met with objection from the Democrats.

This bill (S.4047) is the same thing as S.Amdt.4970 (as amended by S.Amdt.5007) to H.R.4954 - Port Security Improvement Act of 2006, which was passed on September 14. The language of the DeMint amendment was stripped in conference committee.

Mr. DeMint (Congressional Record) ... If we don't screen the people who work at our ports, we cannot expect to have effective port security.


6 foreign ports will screen U.S.-bound cargo for weapons
By Carol Eisenberg, Newsday - December 8, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Cargo bound for the United States from six foreign ports -- including one in England owned by Dubai Ports World -- will be screened for nuclear and radiological weapons before being loaded onto ships, federal officials announced Thursday.

"Number one, the technology is not that good," said James Carafano, senior research fellow in homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. "The data these [radiological detection] machines produce is still very poor." More important, Carafano said, "No serious analyst thinks this is a credible threat. If you had a nuclear weapon, the last thing you'd do is let it out of your control. Ships get rerouted, containers get crushed.... So at the end of the day, you're struggling for a rational justification."


Dubai firm expects bids for U.S. ports
By TED BRIDIS, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - A Dubai-owned company will accept final bids within two weeks for the sale of all $700 million worth of its U.S. port operations to an American buyer, a plan forced by concerns over terrorism security.

Did you know that Dubai Ports World has kept its ownership interest in those US ports ever since the contentious business deal? DPW is, today, in exactly the business arrangement that was deemed to be too big of a security risk to the United States.

Well well well. DPW sold its US assets to AIG on December 12.

Dubai Ports sells US operations

WASHINGTON - Dubai Ports World, the company whose planned takeover of major U.S. port operations ignited a political firestorm earlier this year, has agreed to sell those operations to AIG Global Investment Group. ... The company announced the deal Monday.

UPDATE @ 16:04

Now here's a resource that might be useful for measuring the progress of the DEM-controlled Congress in implementing the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission.

Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, Or Not

In a major new [Congressional Research Service] report (pdf) that could serve as an appendix to the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission, the Congressional Research Service performed a detailed assessment of the implementation of the Commission's recommendations. ...

See, relatedly, a review of the 9/11 Commission recommendations by Christian Beckner of Homeland Security Watch who examines "what the 110th Congress could potentially do to make progress on each and every one of [them]."

UPDATE @ 16:44

Senator Durbin offered a resolution relating to Darfur, and on a separate subject, urged passage of the tax extended package.

Senator Reid defended the Senate's abuse of cloture to block executive nominations with less than a majority of the Senate - holding the Senate above the executive, and praising that as the correct result. "The American people won" as a result of the Gang-of-14. Well, he and Senator Frist see eye-to-eye in this regard. Rejection of the nuclear option is Reid's proudest moment as minority leader. Blech. To both of them.


Investigation of Allegations Related
to improper conduct involving members and
current or former house pages

UPDATE @ 18:08

Senator Inhofe gave a nice tribute to Jeane Kirkpatrick (So did Senator Kyle, later on).

UPDATE @ 18:36

The House is coming up on a vote on a trade bill (to extend certain trade relations), H.R.6406, which touches on Vietnam, Africa countries, Haiti, and a six month extension of trade preferences for Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

UPDATE @ 18:52

The Senate Passes ...

  • S.4115 - Effective Physician Assistance for Drug Treatment Act
  • H.R.6338 - Geneva Distinctive Emblems Protection Act of 2006, to prevent and repress the misuse of the Red Crescent distinctive emblem and the Third Protocol (Red Crystal) distinctive emblem

UPDATE @ 19:10

Speaker Hastert is giving his final talk as Speaker - recollecting events, and giving the customary gratitude to the behind the scenes workers. He finished his remarks at 19:19, to rousing applause.

Congresswoman Pelosi up next - recognized Hastert as the longest serving Republican Speaker in history, "and long may that record stand," said she.

UPDATE @ 19:27

The House is voting on passage of H.R.6406 - the trade bill. A 15 minute vote.

UPDATE @ 19:49

Senator Kyl gave a nice commentary regarding Jeane Kirkpatrick. He also noted departing Senators, naming first, Rick Santorum, then Conrad Burns, then Jim Talent, then George Allen, then Mike DeWine, "and finally, Lincoln Chafee."

The House passed H.R.6406 - the trade bill, on a 212-184 vote, appended it to H.R.6111, and sent it back to the Senate.

The House is next taking up H.R.5682 - U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Power. An hour of debate is allocated.

UPDATE @ 21:31

Senators Hutchison and Stevens re-lamented absence of appropriations bills, in particular, the bill dealing with Military Construction.

The House deferred a vote on the India Civil Nuclear Power Bill (a roll call vote was called for) and started one hour of debate on Joint Res. 102, the Continuing Resolution, at 21:04. Rep. Obey uttered scathing criticism of the Republicans for shirking the duty to pass appropriations bills, and says "please spare us asking to again take charge of the people's money."

Senator DeWine gave his farewell speech - fairly long-winded and oriented to his family and his wife's family. He winds up at 21:20. Senator Reid chimes in with a pat on the back for Senator DeWine, followed by praise from Senators McConnell and Durbin.

Meanwhile, over in the House (at 21:27), a roll call vote is called for on H.J.Res.102, with the vote to occur later tonight. H.Con.Res.503, the Motion to adjourn sine die, is introduced. The Senate is given until December 13 to adjourn, under this resolution. The resolution is agreed to.

At 21:30, the House moved to roll call vote on two measures:

UPDATE @ 23:31

H.R.4709 - Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006, was passed by the Senate. This bill gets to the center of the practice known as "pretexting" -- a fraudulent technique to obtain access to confidential communications records.

S.4121 - to provide optional funding rules for employers in applicable multiple employer pension plans, was passed by the Senate.

The House has 14 "suspensions," or bills to take up out of regular order, before adjourning sine die. In the Senate, Senator Grassley is promoting some of the tax extenders, e.g., deduction for teachers buying classroom supplies, sales tax deduction.

H.J.Res.102 - Continuing Appropriations passed the Senate at 23:58 on Dec 8

H.R.6164 - National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006 - amended and passed at 23:59

H.R.6111 - a cloture motion filed to concur in the house amendment (this is an odd gesture, given the impending adjournment sine die) - Frist then asks for unanimous consent to concur with the House, but with an amendment. He asks for a roll call vote, and there is sufficient second. He also "fills the amendment tree." Senators Gregg and Grassley will debate on waiving a point of order. If the point of order passes, then cloture vote, if cloture passes, then vote on the underlying measure.

H.R.798 - Methamphetamine Remediation Research Act of 2005 - amended and passed at 00:04

UPDATE @ Dec 9 - 00:08

Senator Gregg raises a point of order that the motion to concur in the House amendment to H.R.6111 violates various aspects of the budget act and budget resolution. Senator Grassley moves to waive the points of order. A half hour of debate is scheduled before voting on the point of order. This is (was) nominally the trade with Haiti package, but was amended to include tax (relief) extender legislation.

UPDATE @ 00:38

Wow. This H.R.6111 is loaded with stuff. It has the Gulf of Mexico oil drilling bill too. Senator Domenici is up advocating to pass the bill for that reason, Grassley is hot on the tax (relief) extenders (R&D tax credit, capital gains, alternative minimum tax, sales tax deduction, etc.) - seems like a small number of budget hawks are making a point (e.g., Gregg, Coburn). My quick nose count indicates that the budget point will be waived, and cloture will pass.

This bill also contains the Viet Nam trade relations, trade with Haiti, etc. provisions.

A bit of testy exchange between Grassley ad Gregg, as to ability to count. Gregg thought Grassley's time had expired, "if I can count, the time has expired." Grassley says "I had 6 minutes, I gave 4 to Landrieu. Can YOU count?" The chair ruled that Grassley's time had expired.

Gregg's objection is that the bill comes in with a mess of spending initiatives. This isn't just tax code extension - it includes 4 billion dollars in health care requirements for companies involved in coal mining, being passed to the taxpayer; 36 billion in new spending over the next five years; earmarks (150 million for the District of Columbia, special depreciation for ethanol, change in ethanol tariffs from Brazil); and more.

Senator Gregg is wound up too. The Senate is voting on Grassley's motion to waive the budget point of order. 60 votes are required to waive.

UPDATE @ 01:06

The budget point of order against H.R.6111 was
WAIVED on a 67 - 21 vote.

On to the cloture vote.

UPDATE @ 01:27

The cloture motion to conclude debate on H.R.6111 was
PASSED on a 78 - 10 vote.

On to vote on the "underlying bill," motion to concur with the House amendment.

UPDATE @ 01:49

H.R.6111 - Tax extenders; Gulf of Mexico Drilling; Trade package for Viet Nam, Haiti, Africa;, Health care for coal miners; and assorted pork projects was
PASSED on a 79 - 09 vote.

You don't see that very often. Three votes back to back on the same exact bill - different from stacked votes on a range of amendments, then voting on the bill. Anyway, the GOP-lead Senate is demonstrating it's inability to regulate pork-barrel spending - and next Congress, the DEMs will lard up the appropriations bills, no doubt with help from the Republicans.

According to C-SPAN2, the next matter up will be the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Power bill.

Meanwhile, while Senator Frist accolades his secretary, "Ramona;" over in the House, S.707 is NOT passed. Senator Landrieu accolades her staff; and the House passes S.1529, S.2150, H.R.482, H.R.6143, H.R.5280, H.R.1554, and several others. Phew! Breakneck pace of action.

Senator Collins notes that H.R. 6407 - To reform the postal laws of the United States - will also be taken up by the 109th Senate before it concludes business.

UPDATE @ 02:50

02:26 Senator Frist congratulates Senator Collins on the Postal Accountability bill.

02:38 Senator Frist noted Senate confirmation of a mess of nominations, none of them being judicial nominees.

02:42 Senator Landrieu indicates that she will hang around until a certain House bill is passed by the Senate. That bill is being held up (there is a hold by a Senator). Senator Frist indicates that a number of similar bills (same or similar subject material) are presently under consideration and negotiation.

02:44 S.3421 A bill to authorize major medical facility projects and major medical facility leases for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal years 2006 and 2007 - is passed as amended.

02:44 H.R.6407 To reform the postal laws of the United States - is passed.

02:44 H.R.5682 - US-India Civil Nuclear Power - is passed.

02:45 H.Con.Res.503 - sine die adjournment resolution - is accepted. Making and passing a motion to adjourn will now end the 109th Session of the Senate. Adjournment didn't happen just now -- the Senate is in a quorum call, and the facility is now in place to terminate the 109th Senate.

UPDATE @ 03:17

Action in the House while the Senate is in a quorum call ...

02:53 The House begins a 5 minute vote on S.3546 - Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act. (dietary supplement disclosure requirements)

03:06 The House passed S.3546.

03:08 The House amended then passed S.707.

03:11 H.Res.1108 - to appoint Boehner and Pelosi to notify the President of adjournment of the House.

03:13 House Housekeeping for the interim between adjournment of the 109th Congress and commencement of the 110th Congress.

03:16 Motion to adjourn passed. House adjourned until Wednesday, December 13, or, most likely, sine die, depending on action in the Senate.

UPDATE @ 03:47

GOP Pushes Tax Bill Through Congress
By ANDREW TAYLOR - Associated Press Writer

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., gave an extraordinary floor speech lambasting his party for losing its way on fiscal discipline and his leadership for jamming it past rank-and-file Republicans opposing the massive measure.

Gregg particularly objected to a provision tucked into the tax bill to expand federal funding for the health benefits of retired coal miners at a cost of some $5 billion over 10 years.

"You just have to ask yourself how we, as a party, got to this point, where we have a leadership which is going to ram down the throats of our party the biggest budget buster in the history of the Congress under Republican leadership," Gregg said.

and the Senate remains in a quorum call ...

UPDATE @ 04:40

04:22 Senator Frist returned to the chamber

04:22 S.Res.631 - Sudan - passed

04:23 S.Res.632 - passed

04:23 S.Res.633 - passed

04:24 S.Res.634 - passed

04:24 S.707 - Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Act - passed as amended

04:25 H.Con.Res.495 - Authorizing the printing as a House document of "United States House of Representatives, The Committee on Ways and Means: A History, 1789-2006" - passed

04:25 H.R.6060 - Department of State Authorities Act of 2006 - passed

04:25 H.R.4997 - Physicians for Underserved Areas Act - passed

04:26 H.R.5948 - Belarus Democracy Reauthorization Act of 2006 - passed

04:26 H.J.Res.101 - Appointing the day for the convening of the first session of the One Hundred Tenth Congress - passed

04:27 H.Con.Res.502 - passed

04:27 S.214 - United States-Mexico Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act - passed as amended

04:27 S.895 - Rural Water Supply Act of 2005 - passed as amended by the House

04:28 S.2125 - Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2005 - passed

04:28 S.362 - Marine Debris Research Prevention and Reduction Act - passed as amended by the House

04:29 S.4055 - Preserving Crime Victims' Restitution Act of 2006 - passed

04:29 H.R.5483 - Railroad Retirement Disability Earnings Act - passed

04:30 S.Res.549 - A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding modern-day slavery - passed

04:30 H.R.6429 - passed

04:31 S.1608 - Undertaking Spam, Spyware, And Fraud Enforcement With Enforcers beyond Borders Act of 2005 - passed

04:31 Tributes to Senators be printed as a document

04:32 Senate Housekeeping for the interim between adjournment of the 109th Congress and commencement of the 110th Congress.

04:35 Brief "final final remarks"

04:39 Senator Frist quoting from a letter from his father "Finally, I believe it is so terribly important in life to be humble, to use your talents wisely, and to use other people's talents in life to help other people."

04:39 Motion to adjourn sine die. The 109th Senate was formally gaveled to a close.

10 Circuit Court nominations (none on the Senate's executive calendar) and 28 District Court nominations (13 on the calendar, available for vote, and 15 others still in Committee) have been returned to the President. A number of recess appointments were also returned, and it's interesting, at least, that the nominations of eight individuals recess appointed on April 1, 2005, to be Members of the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), have all been returned.

  Nominations Returned to the President on December 9

                 Circuit Courts

PN2182 - Michael Brunson Wallace - Fifth Circuit
PN2181 - Norman Randy Smith - Ninth Circuit
PN2178 - William Gerry Myers III - Ninth Circuit
PN2177 - Peter D. Keisler - DC Circuit
PN2176 - William James Haynes II - Fourth Circuit
PN2175 - Terrence W. Boyle - Fourth Circuit
PN1999 - Thomas M. Hardiman - Third Circuit
PN1748 - Stephen Joseph Murphy III - Sixth Circuit
PN1747 - Raymond M. Kethledge - Sixth Circuit
PN1745 - Debra Ann Livingston - Second Circuit

            Federal District Courts

PN2206 - Thomas Alvin Farr - Eastern District of North Carolina
PN2198 - Frederick J. Kapala - Northern District of Illinois
PN2180 - Benjamin Hale Settle - Western District of Washington
PN2179 - James Edward Rogan - Central District of California
PN2090 - Thomas D. Schroeder - Middle District of North Carolina
PN2089 - Martin Karl Reidinger - Middle District of North Carolina
PN2088 - William Lindsay Osteen, Jr. - Middle District of North Carolina
PN1953 - George H. Wu - Central District of California
PN1952 - Otis D. Wright II - Central District of California
PN1951 - Halil Suleyman Ozerden - Southern District of Mississippi
PN1895 - Lawrence Joseph O'Neill - Eastern District of California
PN1894 - Liam O'Grady - Eastern District of Virginia
PN1893 - Roslynn Renee Mauskopf - Eastern District of New York
PN1812 - Nora Barry Fischer - Western District of Pennsylvania
PN1811 - Sara Elizabeth Lioi - Northern District of Ohio
PN1754 - Janet T. Neff - Western District of Michigan
PN1753 - Paul Lewis Maloney - Western District of Michigan
PN1752 - Robert James Jonker - Western District of Michigan
PN1751 - John Alfred Jarvey - Southern District of Iowa
PN1750 - Mary O. Donohue - Northern District of New York
PN1749 - John Preston Bailey - Northern District of West Virginia
PN1668 - Lisa Godbey Wood - Southern District of Georgia
PN1658 - Gregory Kent Frizzell - Northern District of Oklahoma
PN1654 - Leslie Southwick - Southern District of Mississippi
PN1653 - Marcia Morales Howard - Middle District of Florida
PN1537 - Valerie L. Baker - Central District of California
PN1453 - Philip S. Gutierrez - Central District of California
PN1181 - Vanessa Lynne Bryant - District of Connecticut

PN2197 - Heidi M. Pasichow - Associate Judge of the DC Superior Court
PN1189 - S. Pamela Gray - Associate Judge of the DC Superior Court
PN1054 - Carol A. Dalton - Associate Judge of the DC Superior Court

          Selected Recess Appointees

PN2170 - Richard Stickler - Ass't Sec. of Labor for Mine Safety and Health
PN1397 - John A. Rizzo - General Counsel of the CIA
PN1316 - Benjamin A. Powell - General Counsel of the Office of DNI
PN1314 - Julie L. Myers - Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security
PN1301 - Gordon England - Deputy Secretary of Defense
PN1300 - Dorrance Smith - Assistant Secretary of Defense
PN910  - John Robert Bolton - Representative to the United Nations
PN909  - Eric S. Edelman - Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
PN908  - Peter Cyril Wyche Flory - Assistant Secretary of Defense
PN436 through PN444 - Nine members of the Defense BRAC