Opening of the 110th Congress
Happy New Year!
I don't expect to be nearly as diligent at tracking action in the Senate as I was for a few months of 2006. I'll more likely pick and choose through the issues, and that on a delayed basis. Live blogging the Senate is a chore, rarely a joy.
I notice Social Security Totalization with Mexico "in the news." It's not new. See comments on May 22, 2006 that further cite to a Totalization Agreement being composed by the Social Security Administration in 2004, but President Bush not submitting it to Congress since that time.
I'm curious as to whether or not President Bush will renominate the Judicial candidates left over from the 108th Congress - that's no typo, Myers was filibustered in the 108th, and other nominations had been in the Senate for more than the two years that comprise one entire Congress - and also wonder if he'll renominate the ones returned at the conclusion of the 109th. One of the ten Circuit Court nominations returned to the President last December (Wallace) has withdrawn his name from consideration.
Time for a fresh Circuit Court Nominations Summary too, I suppose. Here is a link to the Circuit Court Nominations Summary - 109th Congress for reference.
Old battle, new news.
Congress, Bush poised for 1st friction
LA Times - Richard B. Schmitt - January 3, 2007
WASHINGTON -- Setting up what could become the first showdown between the Bush administration and the new Democratic Congress, the Justice Department has refused to turn over two secret documents, describing the CIA's detention and interrogation policies for suspected terrorists, to the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who asked for the documents in November, said Tuesday that the department's response suggested that President Bush's promise to work with the new Congress "may have been only political lip service."
Leahy has said he might use subpoenas to get the material.
President Bush short speech from White House, following cabinet meeting.
He is hopeful that the political parties can work together.
- Spend the people's money wisely
- Bush will submit 5 yr budget proposal, budget balanced by 2012
- Priorities on National Defense and Homeland Security
- Pro-growth economic policies
- Make the tax cuts permanent
- Vital entitlement programs need to be reformed. SS, Medicare, Medicaid
- Reform the Congressional earmarks process - cut in half by next year
- "Line item veto"
The President didn't reply to reporter's question, "Do you think Saddam's execution was handled appropriately?"
Courtesy of confirmthem.com, Harriet Miers Resigns, effective January 31. This is apt to have no impact on the first slate of judicial nominations that will come forward, I expect President Bush will resubmit all of the returned nominations - except Wallace who has withdrawn himself.
Related reading: Byron York on GOP plans to confirm 17 Circuit Court judges over the next two years. Yeah, but, the number isn't the totality of the issue. What are the qualifications and judicial inclination of the nominees? Will the President advance 17 Harriet Miers-like (that is, prequalified by the Democrats) nominees?
Harry Reid is introducing the 110th Senate's preliminary agenda. It's a yawner, as far as I can tell. Immigration reform, minimum wage, etc. Ten bills, S.1 through S.10. S.10 being a "pay as you go" rule (read "tax increases to match our spending").
Senator McConnell says that the GOP has reserved bill numbers S.11 through S.20, and that the contents of these will be revealed after caucus meetings, and over the next two to several weeks.
Bad, but expected, news on the Judicial nominations front ...
Michigan [All] senators get more say over judges
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this week that both senators from a state, regardless of party affiliation, will have to concur with a nomination before a nominee will even be considered by his committee.
And some heated rhetoric on the subject of immigration reform.
I share the disappointment of tens of millions of Americans who had hoped President Bush would have exercised his constitutional authority to veto that costly, cobbled-together and mean-spirited law. Instead, the President seemed to have abandoned his principles in signing the Secure Fence Act that will cost between $2 billion and $9 billion and fail to perform as advertised to seal our southern border.
The link includes the full text of S.9 - Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. It's merely a "Sense of the Senate" resolution, and contains zero substance.
Say what you will about Leahy, at least he commits his positions to writing and makes them available to the public.
Thomas, the Congressional Record link, hasn't yet adjusted itself to accommodate the start of the 110th Congress.
Thomas, the Congressional Record link, is "up" for the 100th Congress.
Bills S.1 through S.193 were introduced. Mostly retreads, McCain-Feingold II as S.192, for example; and S.187 as Senator Specter's version of FISA improvement.
On S.1 - Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 (lobbying reform, etc.), Senator Collins continues her (and Senator Lieberman's) push, "While I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this bill, I also believe strongly that it would be improved by the addition of an independent Office of Public Integrity within the Legislative Branch."
There is no text provided for S.2 - the proposed minimum wage revisions, or for S.5 - the proposed stem cell research law.
The following are all "Sense of the Senate," no substantive material whatsoever:
- S.3 - Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007
- S.4 - Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007
- S.6 - National Energy and Environmental Security Act of 2007
- S.7 - College Opportunity Act of 2007
- S.8 - Rebuilding America's Military Act of 2007
- S.9 - Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007
So on the first day of the Senate, the majority introduced 10 bills with some fanfare, 2 of which (S.1 and S.10) actually contain substantive text, 6 of which are nothing-burgers, and 2 (S.2 - Minimum Wage, and S.5 - Stem Cell) without any text. And guess which are first up? S.1, S.2 and S.5 - plus S.113, the appropriations for Military Housing that Senator Hutchison tried valiantly to get passed at the end of the 109th Congress.
Oh, S.10 - Restoring Fiscal Discipline Act of 2007 (Paygo) did have accompanying text. It has a 3/5th override provision, similar to the Senate currently uses to override its past promise not to appropriate money outside of the budget.
S.21 - Prevention First Act, contains a number of provisions that will be contentious. Wrapped into this bill are "Title X Family Planning Services Act of 2007," "Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act of 2007," "Emergency Contraception Education Act of 2007," "Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act of 2007," "At-Risk Communities Teen Pregnancy Prevention Act of 2007," "Truth in Contraception Act of 2007," "Unintended Pregnancy Reduction Act of 2007," and "Responsible Education About Life Act of 2007."
Click here to see whatever text is available for S.1 through S.193. I doubt that the introductions of the first day of the Congress are a reliable indicator of where the Senate will wander in the coming year.
The Senate did manage first, second and third readings, and passage of S.159 - to redesignate the White Rocks National Recreation Area in the State of Vermont as the Robert T. Stafford White Rocks National Recreation Area - all in one, the first even, legislative day. I point that out to disabuse readers of the notion that Senate Rules regarding the legislative process are literally enforced.
Monday's business will be mundane. The Senate will debate and vote on S. Res. 19, a resolution celebrating the life of the late President Gerald R. Ford. Senator Reid is advancing the progress of S.1 - Lobbying Reform and Legislative Transparency, through a second reading, but notes that he does not have unanimous consent to take that up. Maybe the Republicans will be obstructionist right out of the starting gate.
Senator Coburn's counterpoint to Senator Landrieu's opening begathon indicates the use of fiscal responsibility as justification for obstructing new bills. Senator Coburn claims he will withhold his consent to take up legislation unless:
First is for me to agree to a unanimous consent on legislation in the 110th Congress, the bill has to conform to the vision of the limited Federal Government set forth by the Constitution and our Founding Fathers. In other words, it has to be constitutional.
Second, if it creates or authorizes a new Federal program or activity, it must not duplicate an existing program or activity.
Third, if a bill authorizes new spending, it must be offset by reductions in real spending elsewhere.
If a program or activity currently receives funding from sources including, but not limited to, the Federal Government, the bill shall not increase the Federal Government's share of that spending.
Finally, if a bill establishes a new foundation, museum, cultural or historic site, or other entity that is not an agency or a department, the Federal funding should be limited to the initial start-up cost plus an endowment that can be added to through private funding.
Judiciary Committee Hearing at 9:30 AM on January 10: Balancing Privacy and Security: The Privacy Implications of Government Data Mining Programs.
Prepared Testimony (no substance at the links, yet) ...
- The Honorable Robert Barr (Liberty Strategies, LLC)
- James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. (Heritage Foundation)
- Mr. Jim Harper (CATO Institute)
- Ms. Leslie Harris (Center for Democracy and Technology)
- Mr. Kim A. Taipale (Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy)
UPDATE @ January 8
The first roll call vote of the do-nothing 110th Senate. The link to the roll-call votes summary page isn't working as I type this. Hopefully it will be working "eventually," as a reverse chronological list of Senate roll call votes is a handy resource.
UPDATE @ 13:58
More nominations announced as "intended." Perhaps President Bush will submit a list of judicial nominations sometime this week.
Personnel Announcement - January 8, 2007
The President intends to nominate Zalmay Khalilzad, of Maryland, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, the Representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations, and Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States to the United Nations. ...
The President intends to nominate Ryan C. Crocker, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Iraq. Ambassador Crocker, a career member of the Foreign Service, currently serves as United States Ambassador to Pakistan.
The following bill, S.1, will be subject of debate at some point this week.
The bill is co-sponsored by Minority Leader McConnell. Other Republicans signed on as co-sponsors are Senators Bennett, Collins and Minority Whip Lott.
Feinstein and Lieberman will be the bill leaders on the Democratic side.
The parallel legislation in the 109th Congress was S.2349 - A bill to provide greater transparency in the legislative process which passed the Senate on a 90 - 8 vote, on March 29, 2006. The Democrats objected to taking the bill up, and refused to invoke cloture for taking it up on March 9, 2006. Republicans Vitter and Talent also objected to taking the bill up, at that time. Apparently there was a change of heart, because the cloture motion passed easily 19 days later.
In presser, Reid says the Senate will vote "on this bill" on Friday, and finish the bill next week. Say what? How can it be voted on, Friday, and be left over for next week? Sounds like the bill will be offered, and there will be objection to taking it up, resulting in a need to go through the cloture process just to have the bill taken up. We'll know tomorrow.
UPDATE @ 17:10
Fred F. Fielding to be named as White House Counsel (hat tip, confirmthem.com)
UPDATE @ January 10
President Bush made a round of Circuit and District Court nominations.
Four of the contentious five withdrew from consideration (technically, one of them, Boyle, was withdrawn by the White House, the other three sent the equivalent of resignation letters), but N. Randy Smith, who is held up because Senator Feinstein wants the Idaho seat to be given to a judge from California, was renominated for the third time. That is, he's been nominated four times for the same post (and moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee twice), but the Senate hasn't taken the nomination up for a vote.
Great discussion of various points relating to the nominations at this post at confirmthem.com.
I didn't watch the Senate on Tuesday, but see that it diddled around with S.1 - Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007. Senator Reid had indicated that the bill amending process would begin yesterday, but that the bill itself would not be voted on until next week. My speculation was incorrect, that there might be objection to taking the bill up. Dang - I was hoping for some early fireworks.
As is typical for Senate procedure, the first amendment offered (S.Amdt.3) is in the nature of a substitute - it rewrites the entire bill. Senators McConnell and Collins are the only Republican co-sponsors of the amendment. Typical for Senate process, the text of the amendment is not widely available to the general public at the time the Senate is debating it.
And after the Senate legislates itself transparent and/or ethical (neither will happen, ever), it will take up the Minimum Wage bill (S.2?), followed by either Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research with Taxpayer Money, or Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation.
The House passed H.R.1 - Implementing the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007 (cargo inspection and scanning, unionizing the TSA, modifying the federal cash-to-states redistribution formula ... and a bunch of ... well, scan the text of the engrossed bill starting at the end for a taste) and sent it to the Senate. It was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Any over/under bets on it coming out of Committee?
UPDATE @ January 10 - 09:30
Kennedy's "no escalation in Iraq" bill is S.233. Co-sponsors are Kerry, Boxer, Sanders, Harkin and Leahy. Kennedy made no remarks from the floor of the Senate on the introduction of this bill, and the text of the legislation is not available. I'm seeing a pattern here, of keeping the people in the dark.
A couple of nominations that for some reason caught my eye early on, are still kicking around after persistent lack of action by the Senate. Richard Stickler was again renominated to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health. Another poke in Kennedy's and Byrd's eye. Julie Myers (a nepotism pick) was also renominated to be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security.
UPDATE @ 12:21
Vitter's S.Amdt.7 (to establish criminal penalties for knowingly and
willfully falsifying or failing to file or report certain financial information) was
PASSED on a 93 - 2 vote. Lott and Lugar cast the NAY votes.
These votes are meaningless, except as talking points. This bill, after being passed, will be sent to conference with the House. The votes that matter will be those on whatever bill emerges from conference ... if a bill emerges from conference.
Senator Grassley is up talking about the Medicare Drug Price negotiation proposal. He notices that companies don't mind giving discounts to preferred customers, they just increase prices to their other customers -- I would add that when the profit margin is too small, intelligent companies skip the research, production, and marketing activity altogether.
Hahahahaha. Pelosi bans smoking in the Speaker's Lobby off the House floor. They're still a pack of hypocrites. Rules for thee, but not for me ...
Smoking is banned in most federal buildings ... lawmakers will still be allowed to smoke in their own offices.
Senator Collins is up trying to convince people who mail things that mail is secure against being opened by the government. President Bush's signing statement on the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act kicked off a firestorm by civil libertarians - people just didn't "get it" that the signing statement represents the current state of the law, not a change.
But this "sanctity of our mail system" line of Senator Collins is bullshit. The fact that Collins is bothering to promote a "sense of the Senate" resolution is pretty funny. She completely blew past the phrase "the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection," which represents the legal justification for surveillance without a warrant.
UPDATE @ 14:10
Uh oh. Republican Norm Coleman is not supporting a troop surge directed to Baghdad, Iraq. Put him on the GOP "bad boys" list.
Senator Leahy wants to discuss S.Amdt.2, the text of which is (drumroll) unavailable. Same old story. Hide the ball and quorum call.
UPDATE @ 15:35
Senator Conrad is rebutting Senator DeMint on a Presidential "Line Item Suggestion of Rescission" bill, where the president is given the power to suggest Congress to reverse items in a bill.
UPDATE @ 17:24
Vitter's S.Amdt.5 (to modify the application of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to Indian tribes) was TABLED on a 56 - 40 vote.
UPDATE @ 17:44
Vitter's S.Amdt.6 (to prohibit family members of Congressmen from being lobbyists) was
TABLED on a 54 - 41 vote. Senator Boxer voted "present." What a drama queen.
Action scheduled for Thursday, January 11 ...
Stevens Amdt (travel): 1 hour debate then an 11:30 am vote. (Yaaaaawn)
Club For Growth live blogs the Senate excitement over Senator DeMint's introduction of S.Amdt.11, which adopts the language of House Speaker Pelosi's earmark proposal, and the Senate Democrats failed attempt to table the measure proposed by their Democrat counterparts in the House.
I disagree that a vote on passage is necessarily the mirror image of a vote to table. Usually, yes - if not tabled, the amendment is adopted on a voice vote. But not always.
Kyl's S.Amdt.3206 to the Senate's first Immigration Package (S.2454) survived a motion to table on a 99-0 vote, but was never adopted - not even before the bill as a whole was killed 3 days later, when a bipartisan Senate would not agree to cloture. Kyl's amendment was "not tabled" on the fourth, debated between Kyle and Durbin on the fifth, and was "pending as an amendment" on the sixth and seventh of April last year.
Schumer's S.Amdt.309 to a bill relating to State Department and international broadcasting (S.600) survived a motion to table on a 33-67 vote, was not adopted, the bill was set aside for other business, returned to the calender 20 days after that, and not again taken up.
The larger point, that the Democrats are divided on earmark transparency is of course true. The Republicans are similarly divided. Of course, all this action on the Senate floor makes for great theater - and I'm really glad other more prominent blogs are watching Senate action - it means I don't have to.
UPDATE @ January 12
Senator Reid is working to salvage this fiasco by offering an amendment to S.Amdt.11. It appears there has been a conference between the Senators that resulted in a mutually agreeable compromise.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that on Tuesday, January 16, at 5:30 p.m., the Senate proceed to a vote on or in relation to the Durbin amendment No. 44, to be followed by a vote on or in relation to the DeMint amendment No. 11, as amended, if amended, and then without further intervening action or debate, the Senate proceed to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture on amendment No. 14; that if the Durbin amendment is not modified to Senator DeMint's satisfaction, then the agreement with respect to a vote with respect to the two amendments be vitiated.
Reid also filed a couple of cloture motions to cause the bill to be settled early next week. First, a cloture motion of S.Amdt.3, the substitute for the original bill; and then a cloture motion on S.1 itself.
Senator Kyl on the withdrawal of Boyle, Haynes, Myers and Wallace. Fine time to raise a fuss, Senator. Where were you 6 months ago? On the other hand, he gives great exposure to Ed Whelan of National Review Online [scroll to the end of my post to see 10 links to Mr. Whelan's analyses], on the subject of the ABA's disgusting lies relating to Wallace.
UPDATE @ January 16
UPDATE @ January 18
Some excitement on the Wednesday 17th, as the Republicans used cloture in an attempt to force consideration of Senator Gregg's "line item veto" amendment.
The failed cloture vote is "still pending" theoretically, as Reid made a motion to reconsider the vote. There were some good speeches before and after this development ...
LEGISLATIVE TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT OF 2007 - Jan 17
Reid: Anyone who votes against cloture is creating some real political problems for himself. I think the American people think that something should be done with this culture of corruption we have back here. (at Page S655)
Gregg: We do not wish to bring this bill down. We simply wish to get a vote on a reasonable amendment that won't survive germaneness postcloture; therefore, it has to be voted before cloture. It is an entirely reasonable position for the minority to take, especially since the amendment has been aggressively vetted by having been through this process so many times and actually has been pretty well defined by the Supreme Court as to what rights we have and what rights we don't have. That is why it is structured the way it is so it is constitutional. (at Page S658)
McConnell: Unfortunately, the majority leader has an objection on his side, and therefore it appears we will not be able to finish this bill this week. I hope we can continue to work on a path toward finishing the underlying bill. It passed last year 90 to 8, after the then-minority defeated cloture on one occasion in order to do exactly what this minority is going to do to defeat cloture on one occasion, which is to guarantee consideration of additional amendments. (at Page S664)
After the Cloture Motion was Rejected
Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I rise tonight at this late hour. The hour is late and the night is black. I rise tonight to shine a bright light on political chicanery that is playing out on the Senate floor.
In November, America voted for a change. The people sent a strong signal that they wanted less partisanship and more accountability in Washington. In response to the voters, Senator Reid, Senator Feinstein, and Senator McConnell put before the Senate an ethics reform bill that would add transparency and accountability to the legislative process. They should be proud of their product, and the Senate has had a good debate thus far on the bill.
But wait, wait, wait 1 second. Before we can clear the way for greater accountability and sunshine into the way work gets done in these halls, the Senate is being blackmailed into an assault on the Congress's single most precious and most powerful authority--the power of the purse. That is the most powerful authority we have: the power of the purse.
Tonight, this reform bill is threatened by an effort by our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to give the President line-item veto authority. No vote on the line-item veto, they say, and no ethics reform. That is nothing more than legislative blackmail, and I, for one, will not pay the price. No one should stand still when this Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is the hostage. No one should stand still, I repeat, when this Constitution, which I hold in my hand, is the hostage.
This line-item veto authority would grant tremendous and dangerous new power to the President. He would have unchecked authority to take from the Congress the power of the purse, a power that the constitutional Framers thought was absolutely vital to protecting the people's liberties.
It was just 8 years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the line-item veto was unconstitutional. Now our colleagues--some of them--on the other side of the aisle are threatening to hold up the ethics reform bill in an effort to hand the President another line-item veto authority. Are the memories around here so short?
Are the memories around here so short?
We have a President who already has asserted too much power. This is a blatantly gross attempt to take even more power for the President and strip away power from the people.
This President claimed the unconstitutional authority to tap into the telephone conversations of American citizens without a warrant or court approval.
This President claimed the unconstitutional authority to sneak and peek, to snoop and scoop, into the private lives of the American people.
This President has taken the Nation to a failed war based on faulty evidence and the misrepresentation of facts. And many Senators voted not realizing that was what was being done when we voted on the war resolution.
So I say, this President has taken the Nation to a failed war based on faulty evidence and an unconstitutional doctrine of preemptive strikes. More than 3,000 American sons and daughters have died in Iraq in this crazed Presidential misadventure.
And what is the response of the Senate? To give the President even more unfettered authority? To give him greater unchecked powers? We have seen the danger of the blank check. We have lived through the aftermath of a rubberstamp Congress. We should not continue to lie down for this President or any other President. (at Pages 666, 7)
The other "hot" item, S.Con.Res.2, was submitted by Mr. BIDEN (for himself, Mr. Hagel, Mr. Levin, and Ms. Snowe). This is the anti-Iraq-surge Resolution. It's a "sense of Congress" thingamabob - click on the link and read it, it's short. You may find yourself reading Senator Biden's introduction as well -- I know I did.
UPDATE @ 19:57
Senator Gregg has agreed to withdraw his amendment, with the understanding that it will be one of the first amendments considered on H.R.2 - the Minimum Wage bill, on Monday.
The Senate will work late tonight, debating 6 to 9 amendments (I lost count), then voting on the substitute amendment, then the bill. It's anticipated that the bill will pass tonight.
No votes in the Senate tomorrow (or Monday).
UPDATE @ 21:18
S.1 passed 96 -2 (Coburn and Hatch were the NAY votes), after roll call votes on a couple of amendments, and voice votes on many others. I'm not sure it's worth reading the fine print, although a good number of the provisions are "Senate only," and therefore not amenable to revision in conference to settle differences with the House.
What a big week. I say they should take Friday off as a reward.
Senator Coburn up to discuss what went on the last two weeks, noting a "crisis of confidence" in Congress. "The American people should be on guard ... they would like to see transparency and sunshine ... some of the things that went on, on the way to get to this bill, were not transparent. Some of the things agreed to in this bill were not debated because they will be discarded in conference. [talks about earmarks]"
"What's going to happen when this bill goes to conference? ... Lobbyists aren't the problem, members of Congress are the problem. ... We just passed a 'gotcha system' where people (Congressmen) making innocent mistakes will be ruined."
He gives good advice - the people should watch for what comes out of the conference committee. Coburn's a good man - he's giving outstanding advice here.
UPDATE @ 21:35
I'll be dipped. Reid did have them take Friday off. Back in session at 1 PM Monday.