Monday, January 22, 2007

Week of January 22, 2007 - Two Senate Surge Resolutions

There will be competing resolutions to facilitate the "Sense of Congress" debate. One being the Biden/Hagel/Levin/Snowe language, and another, less strenuous version with negotiations being led by Senator Warner.

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.

An alternative effort has been mentioned in news reports as to be introduced today. Here are reports that I was able to find ...

U.S. sponsors of bipartisan resolution opposing troop surge ...

Republican Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon said he was wary of the term "escalating" in the resolution and was working with Sens. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, on a "constructive, nonpartisan resolution that expresses the opposition of the Senate to the surge."

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White House and Democrats in war of words on Iraq

The battle over Iraq policy was about to get more complicated in the Senate where Virginia Republican John Warner, Maine Republican Susan Collins and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson said they would unveil on Monday an alternative nonbinding resolution on the troop increase. They gave no details.


The item scheduled to be on the Senate's to-do list for today is debate on H.R.2 - Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. That should be exciting.

UPDATE @ 14:10

Senator Baucus has been ranting about, of all things, Libby!

Libby, Montana that is. It's an old pet project of his, obtaining federal money for Libby, Montana to address the effects of an asbestos mine operated by W.R. Grace.

UPDATE @ 14:20

Senator Gregg's S.Amdt.101, relating to a line-item rescission, was entered. I'd forgotten about that. This could be a good debate.

Senator Reid filed a Cloture Motion to limit debate on the Gregg amendment, with the Cloture vote to be taken at the "usual" time, as far as I know, which would be Wednesday morning.

UPDATE @ 18:20

Senator Reid filed a Cloture Motion to limit debate on H.R.2 - Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. Senator McConnell indicates that he hopes cloture will not be invoked on the underlying bill. Senator Reid says that, with regard to the Gregg amendment, if cloture is not invoked, Senator Gregg will withdraw it.

Senator Warner will speak tonight, and that will end the business of the Senate for the day.

UPDATE @ Jan 24

Scooter Libby Trial - Read All About It

And in a related vein, the government filed its Response to Dow Jones (& Associated Press) Motion to Unseal. This filing is related to the legal action against Judy Miller and Matt Cooper, where they eventually were forced to testify. Dow Jones (and AP) are looking to make the case that such compulsion was unwarranted in the Plame leak investigation. In this Response, the government says it is willing to publish more of the material, but urges the Motion (and publication) be put on hold until after the Libby trial is complete, because what will be released to meet this Motion to Unseal will track closely with testimony elicited during the Libby trial.

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One cloture vote (on the Gregg "line item rescission" amendment) to occur this morning.

that at 10:30 a.m., there be an hour for debate prior to the cloture vote on the Gregg amendment ... that at 11:30 a.m., the Senate proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Gregg amendment

UPDATE @ 13:25

The cloture vote on limiting debate on Gregg's S.Amdt.101 (line item rescission power) was
REJECTED on a 49 - 48 vote.
Bayh and Lieberman voted AYE, Shelby voted NAY.

In light of that, Gregg will withdraw the amendment, and the Republicans can say "a majority of the votes cast were in favor of the amendment" (that's false, but some will say it anyway).

The cloture vote on limiting debate on the bill H.R.2 (minimum wage and tax relief) was
REJECTED on a 54 - 43 vote.
Snowe, Specter and Warner voted to invoke cloture, but that wasn't enough to limit debate and the bill amendment process.

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Senator Warner's Iraq Resolution Speech from January 22

It is clear to us that the U.S. strategy and operations in Iraq can only be sustained and achieved with the support of the American people and with a level of bipartisanship in the Congress.

Well, if success depends on the level of bipartisanship, and on what constitutes "support of the American people," then I think "success" is beyond reach. A nasty scene all around, and my beef here is that Warner's premise is flawed. Sometimes success is in the offing even when the action is unpopular. Further, it doesn't matter what sort of sugar-coating the Senator tries to put around the sense of Congress, this statement (from his proposed resolution) speaks for itself ...

the Senate disagrees with the ``plan'' to augment our forces by 21,500, and urges the President instead to consider all options and alternatives for achieving the strategic goals set forth below with reduced force levels than proposed

UPDATE @ 15:50

Lucy in the Bon-Bon Factory - Mark Krikorian / NRO

This is an immigration piece (reacting to President Bush's continuing pressure for comprehensive immigration reform in the State of the Union Address) that has an awesome linked flow-chart summarizing S.2611 (200 kB pdf file). The fallacy is to assume that Congress will attempt exactly the same legislation this time around. There is no telling what will emerge from the Congressional meatgrinder - could be even more open immigration laws, could be more strict.

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Seems the Senate is multi-tasking, between the minimum wage bill and the Iraq force monkeybusiness.

UPDATE @ 18:00

Senators Warner, Nelson of Nebraska, Salazar, and Collins are talking up their proposed anti-Iraq-surge resolution. Other co-sponsors are Bayh, Bill Nelson ... couple others I was distracted and missed.

Collins describes the hours of wordsmithing involved, and notes that Senators Smith and Coleman are also behind the resolution. I haven't done a nose count, but it sounds as though the GOP might have a hard time marshaling 41 votes to reject the inevitable cloture motion. "Inevitable," I think for this, but it is very unusual to bother with cloture on a resolution that represents a mere "Sense of Congress." Something to look up, perhaps later if a cloture motion is filed. But with the number of GOP supporters, and nearly all the DEMs ready to vote AYE on the resolution, cloture is the only way to stop "passing" the resolution.

UPDATE @ 19:15

I just noticed that the formal nominations for the Crocker, McConnell, Negroponte shuffle were sent to the Senate on Monday, the 22nd.

UPDATE @ Jan 25

The talks of Senators Warner, Nelson (NB), Collins and Salazar - Iraq - Jan 24 are getting repeat airplay on C-SPAN2. One can read their words by clicking on the link.

Click on ... S.Con.Res.2 to read the text as favorably reported out of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

In a similar vein, and just before the above speeches, Senator Byrd spoke on military action against Iran, as he introduced Senate Resolution 39 (the Warner thing is a Joint House/Senate resolution).

This resolution, which I hold in my hand--here it is--this resolution is a rejection--hear me--a rejection of the bankrupt, dangerous, and unconstitutional doctrine of preemption. Let me say that again. This resolution, which I hold in my hand, is a rejection of the bankrupt, dangerous, and unconstitutional doctrine of preemption, which proposes that the President--any President--may strike another country before that country threatens us, before that country threatens us. That is the doctrine of preemption: We may strike, we may attack, we may invade another country before it threatens us.

Fiery rhetoric, but it's adaptable rhetoric too, depending on how one takes the meaning of another country "threatening us." Did Afghanistan "threaten us?" How about Bosnia?

To be sure, Congress has a role in committing our armed forces, but so does the President. The division of authority is not always clear, nor will it ever be for certain fact patterns of "foreign threat."

At any rate, aside from Byrd's bluster, the Senate Resolution recites Constitutional truisms that have long been, and will continue to be the subject of debate. Byrd's speech shed no new light - except to express that he is against the President applying force against Iran or Syria until after the Congress agrees with such application of force.

More Committee chatter on the subject in store today, as well:

Committee on Armed Services: to hold hearings to examine the current situation in Iraq and on the Administration's recently announced strategy for continued United States assistance to the Iraqi government and for an increased United States military presence in Iraq, 9:30 a.m., SD-106.

Committee on Foreign Relations: to resume hearings to examine the remaining options relating to securing America's interests in Iraq focusing on reconstruction strategy, 9:15 a.m., SH-216.
Full Committee, to resume hearings to examine the remaining options relating to securing America's interests in Iraq focusing on political strategy, 2:30 p.m., SD-628.

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Senators Sessions and Kennedy have submitted dueling amendments to the Minimum Wage Bill, where the dueling amendments are on the subject of immigration reform. The amendments aren't going to be debated under the Minimum Wage Bill, but they show the contours of the eventual immigration debate.

Text of Amendments (Jan 24) - find "SA 180. Mr. KENNEDY submitted an amendment intended to be proposed to amendment SA 143 submitted by Mr. SESSIONS."

Text of Amendments (Jan 23) - more immigration related material than one would expect. Search for the words "immigration" and then "alien."

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This morning, the Senate will be voting on Senator DeMint's S.Amdt.158, which increases the Federal Minimum wage in annual 70 cent increments, over a period of about two years. That is, 70 cents two months from the date of enactment, another 70 cents a year from that, and a final 70 cents a year after the second increase.

The Daily Digest - Jan 24 cites 17 pending amendments (!!), but none of them strikes me as exciting. The big events yesterday were rejection of cloture on Gregg's S.Amdt.101 for line-item rescission (not yet formally withdrawn, hmmmm), rejection of cloture on the underlying bill, and the various Senate actions to express what they fancy as their role as commanders of the armed forces (being anti-Iraq-surge).

Not that all the amendments to the Minimum Wage Bill are uninteresting, they just aren't exciting (to me anyway). A sampling:

  • Enzi (for Ensign/Inhofe) Amendment No. 152, to reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system.
  • Enzi (for Ensign) Amendment No. 153, to require both Houses of Congress approve a totalization agreement before the agreement, giving foreign workers Social Security benefits, can go into effect.
  • Enzi (for Ensign) Amendment No. 154, to improve access to affordable health care.
  • DeMint Amendment No. 159, to protect individuals from having their money involuntarily collected and used for lobbying by a labor organization.

UPDATE @ 10:54

The motion to waive the budget point of order DeMint's S.Amdt.158 (setting federal minimum wage to $2.10 on top of state's minimum wage) was
REJECTED on a 16 - 76 vote.

UPDATE @ 12:42

The motion to waive the budget point of order Ensign's S.Amdt.154 (To improve access to affordable health care) was
REJECTED on a 47 - 48 vote.

UPDATE @ Jan 25

Mr. KENNEDY. It is my understanding we are going to be on this bill as far as the eye can see. That is part of my problem on it. ...

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this is not an omnibus tax bill, it is long overdue legislation to increase the minimum wage. It is not an opportunity for Members to present their tax cut wish list. It is Congress' opportunity to finally right the wrong of denying millions of hard working minimum wage workers a raise for 10 years.

There is some interesting debate in yesterday's record, and some mildly disappointing votes (e.g., tabling Kyl's S.Amdt.205), but nothing on a quick read that I figure would make a lasting impression on readers here, or that presages a more prominent debate in the future.

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Senator Leahy introduced Rules of Procedure for the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and introduced them (they look fairly straightforward) with a summary of other Committee proceedings, the most interesting one, to me, being "including our creation of a new subcommittee on Human Rights." Keep an eye out for action coming from this new subcommittee.

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Orders for Friday: "the Senate then proceed to executive session to consider Executive Calendar No. 1, the nomination of LTG David H. Petraeus; that there be 45 minutes for debate on the nomination ... the Senate proceed to vote on the confirmation of the nomination ... and the Senate then return to legislative session and resume consideration of H.R. 2, the minimum wage legislation."

Senator Gregg's S.Amdt.101 (line item rescission) remains pending (but set aside), not having been withdrawn when the cloture motion was rejected. In addition to that amendment, the bill has 19 other pending amendments, plus the "amendment in the nature of a substitute." I have to say, Reid has allowed the GOP more opportunity for debate and amendment than the GOP offered the DEMs in similar circumstances. I don't expect this sort of "agreement to debate" to be persistent, but to a close watcher, it's a clear change from Frist's practices.

UPDATE @ 10:08

The nomination of Petraeus was
CONFIRMED on a 81 - 00 vote. (I had guessed 94-0, but was distracted when the vote concluded. Look at all the absences!)

The long knives will come out later.

UPDATE @ 10:45

Enzi - we've voted on 11 of 100 amendments, and Reid is going to file a cloture motion that will cut-off the voting on amendments (the amendments can be more easily disposed of as non-germane, in a post cloture environment), and notes that in spite of the days passing on the calendar, not all that much action has actually taken place. Monday and Friday, all talk, no voting.

Today looks like a do-nothing day. Good for me.

UPDATE @ January 28

Senator McConnell on Face the Nation says that Senate rules will be used to insure that the Senate has more than one option vis-a-vis Iraq-surge resolutions. He hopes that not many Senators will support Warner's version (i.e., he wants the pending cloture motion to be rejected), and is not sure that ANY of the versions will get past the cloture motion on the motion to proceed to consideration.

Let me say that again ... Cloture motion on the Motion to Proceed to Consideration (or Cloture on the Motion to Take Up). This is an unusual but not rare procedural tactic to prevent the Senate from getting to a vote on the underlying matter. Senate procedure provides a series or sequence of steps, stalling at any of which can be used to prevent taking a vote. The first step is proceeding to consideration, the second step is ending debate and agreeing to take the vote.

Cloture Motion on a Motion to Proceed to the Consideration has been discussed in this space on numerous occasions ...

The procedural posture for S.Con.Res.2 (an Iraq-surge resolution) is that there is objection by at least one Senator to taking it up. Reid has filed a Cloture Motion on the Motion to Proceed to the Cosideration of S.Con.Res.2. If that cloture motion is rejected (41 NAY votes is guaranteed rejection) then the Senate won't formally take up the resolution for debate. They'll still debate it, "as if in morning business" or under some other rubric, but without having the Concurrent Resolution being the formal business of the Senate, the talk has no ultimate object.

The cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the consideration of S.Con.Res.2 is scheduled for noon Tuesday.

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