Monday, February 26, 2007

Senate Week of February 26, 2007

    The Senate is to resume at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, February 26. The ostensible subject of debate is to be a Homeland Security Bill, which is yet to come out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Senator Reid's backup plan is to take up S.184 - Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007 at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, February 27th. When the Senate was last in session, Senator McConnell objected to this, insisting that the Senate proceed to the Homeland Security (9/11) Bill, as previously agreed. Senator Reid agreed that it was preferable to take up the Homeland Security Bill, but in light of the possibility that it won't be available, he filed a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to take up S.184.

    The official short title of the so-called "Homeland Security" or "9/11" bill is Improving America's Security Act of 2007. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee press release says the proposed legislation was passed unanimously by the full committee on February 15, but it wasn't - the business meeting of the 15th was postponed. Links to the text of the proposed amendment to S.4 are available by clicking on the "business meeting was postponed" link.

    The Heritage Foundation's take is expressed in a February 12 article, "The Senate Homeland Security Bill: More Hits Than Misses," and another brief summary can be seen at the National Association of State Budget Officers February 14, 2007 Washington Report Bulletin.

    If the "big" Homeland Security bill/amendment (Collins/Lieberman amendment) is the initial vehicle, expect to also see the Senate take up (as further amendments to S.4) the contents of S.385 - Interoperable Emergency Communications Act, and the above-referenced S.184 - Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007.

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    The Iraq surge issue hasn't cooled off at all, so I expect continued speeches, debate and finger pointing as to which party is keeping the Senate from voicing an opinion on that subject. While there will certainly be plenty of rhetoric, I seriously doubt there will any attempt to proceed to the consideration of any resolution or bill on the topic in the next 3 or 4 weeks. The most likely vehicle debate will be the appropriations bill for conducting the military effort, to be taken up the House next week, and not apt to be available for the Senate until late March.

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    I've predicted a guilty verdict in the Scooter Libby trial, and later guessed the verdict would be handed down sometime today. My points of view of the case (concluding that the prosecution is not an abuse of prosecutorial discretion, that the evidence adduced at trial is sufficient to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that a guilty verdict would not represent a miscarriage of justice) are rejected by the vast majority of Republican observers of the case -- but I don't subscribe to the point of view held by the moonbats on the left either ...

Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas - February 15, 2007

    But the capstone of the administration's disinformation campaign was the claim that Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing nuclear weapons which could be used against America by Iraq, or by the terrorists to whom it was giving safe harbor. President Bush even went so far to announce to a world-wide audience in his 2003 State of the Union address that ``the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.'' According to the President, facing such clear evidence of peril, we could not wait for ``the final proof that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.'' We now know for sure that these claims were false. And covering up those false claims is one of the main reasons that Scooter Libby found himself in the predicament that led to his indictment by a grand jury and the on-going trial in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

    "Moonbats to the right of me, moonbats to the left; stuck in the middle with ..." Seems EVERYONE wants to politicize the case, and few are speaking out for the principle of truthful statements, even when they are uncomfortable. Sign of the times, I think, and reinforces my admonition to not trust what you read, and to make up your own mind. The left does not have a corner on misrepresentation and appeal to emotion, not by a long shot.

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    Besides the Iraq war, the major issues floating around in the news continue to be the "rights" of detainees to challenge, in court, their status as enemy combatants; the limits of domestic warrantless surveillance (NSA Surveillance for Terrorism); and immigration reform.

UPDATE @ 13:19

    On the handling of detainees, and their "right" to challenge being held as enemy combatants, the Jurist/Paperchase collection titled "Hicks lawyer suing Australian government for failure to protect" has potential implications beyond the case of Hicks. What if the governments of Middle Eastern countries adopt a similar approach? An earlier Hicks story adds a slightly different flavor to the argument that a citizen's country must come to the aid of the citizen who is not obtaining "quality" or "speedy" due process.

UPDATE @ 14:03

    Senator Corker begins delivery of President Washington's farewell address. If it wasn't for the words, I swear I'm listening to Barney Fife.

UPDATE @ 14:53

    Senator Corker finished his reading. The Senate went to a quorum call.

UPDATE @ 17:16

    Reid crowing about Senate changes so far in the 110th Congress; ethics reform, minimum wage, elimination of earmarks -- all done with the support of the Republicans. Bipartisan majority of the Senate supports the Democrats view against the Iraq surge. The Senate has also confirmed some judges.

    The Senate has conducted 40 hearings on Iraq, 50+ roll call votes. He contrasts this with similar benchmarks in the 109th Congress (11 or so roll call votes, no hearings on Iraq).

    And now, moving to implement recommendations of the 9/11 Commission on securing the Homeland. He again contrasts this with the 109th Congress where Homeland Security measures (rail security, port security) were rejected on party line votes. I'm sure this blog has summaries of the Senate's action on these Homeland security details, use the "search" function if you are interested in finding them.

    Senator Reid sets up that this will be Homeland Security week in the Senate. Senator McConnell notes that "how" to go ahead should be settled in the next day or two. Hahaha, McConnell will object if Reid moves to take up the Rail Bill instead of the Lieberman/Collins amendment.

    At 5:13 p.m., the Senate adjourns until 10 a.m. tomorrow, with morning business and party caucus meetings until 2:15 p.m. Then the Motion to Proceed to the Consideration of S.184 (what Reid refers to as "the commerce aspect" of the Homeland Security package) will be handled. Reid dances around the reason he has pushed off the cloture vote (on the motion to proceed) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow. He says it's due to clerical issues and "the way the Senate works," but in fact, he doesn't want to start the week with a failed cloture motion on this. He should have thought about that when he filed the cloture motion.


UPDATE @ Feb 27

    Jonathan Hafetz's article at the blog Balkinization, Faulty History at the D.C. Circuit, is a good read on the history of the writ of habeas corpus. I haven't studied the history, nor have I reviewed the numerous links in that article -- but my suggestion is that doing so is a minimum basis for reaching an informed opinion as to which side, majority of two or dissent of one, has the better argument.

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    The Congressional Record from yesterday is thin gruel. Although Senator Thune's "Iraq" speech is pretty good, wherein he criticizes the Democrats' suggestion to deauthorize the Iraq war resolution. Expect additional speeches on the subject, from both sides of the aisle.

    Senator Reid's "110th Congress" speech is too easy to debunk.

UPDATE @ 10:12

    Senator Reid says he would like to vitiate (skip) the cloture vote today, and that he hopes S.4 is available. That regardless of the vehicle, Reid will permit amendments. My impression has been that McConnell wanted S.4. Reid says that he doesn't expect to file a cloture motion to conclude debate and amendment, after whichever bill is used as the vehicle for the general subject of Homeland Security.

    Senator Reid says that he and McConnell are also working on an agreement of when to conduct debate on an Iraq Resolution.

    Senator Reid notes that the subjects of Stem Cell and Budget are also planned.

    Senator McConnell reiterates a desire to get to the 9/11 measure reported out of Committee. From his tone, it looks as though the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to S.184, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today, will not be taken. We should know around then which underlying bill is used as a vehicle for debate and passage of a Homeland Security package.

    As of 10:12 - on to Morning Business until mid-afternoon.

UPDATE @ 14:37

    That was a fast one - the Senate vitiated (withdrew) the cloture motion on S.184, and is instead voting on a cloture motion (must have been just-filed) to proceed to take up S.4. Makes it look as though everything is proceeding as Reid set-up before the recess, but it isn't so.

UNANIMOUS CONSENT AGREEMENT
S. 184 (ORDER NO. 26)

    Ordered further, That the mandatory quorum call under Rule XXII be waived with respect to the cloture motion filed on the motion to proceed to S. 184. (Feb. 26, 2007.)

    But the cloture vote underway (sure to pass) is not on S.184!

    The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the consideration of S.4 - Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, will PASS on a 95 - 0 vote.

    The Senate will move immediately to take up the bill, S.4. That is, the Motion to Proceed will pass on either unanimous consent or voice vote. This cloture vote is a waste of time too, and is being conducted to fool those who are not close and careful observers.

UPDATE @ 14:53

    Dang - My prediction missed the vote total. The cloture motion was agreed to on a 97-0 vote, not a 95-0 vote. Oh well. It passed, just the same.

    Elsewhere, I predicted a 3:41 p.m. timing for the jury to render a verdict in the Libby trial. Note carefully that I already missed my DAY prediction (I predicted a verdict to come out yesterday), so my hour:minute prediction does not include a date. That's the beauty (and the downside) of predictions -- the more of them one makes, the more often one is right, and the more often one is wrong. I'm more often wrong.


UPDATE @ Feb 28

    The Senate's business yesterday was pretty boring, except for that (also boring) sleight of hand where the Senate swapped a brand spanking new cloture motion for the one that had gone through the time-delay "mandated" under Senate Rule XXII. Lesson? All Senate rules may be ignored or amended by unanimous consent.

    So I peeked into the House proceedings, and saw a title that screamed out to be read. That title of the below is "THE TRUCKS ARE COMING, THE TRUCKS ARE COMING."

[Page H1899 (pdf)]

    Mr. POE. Mr. Speaker, the next sound you hear will be the rumble of thousands of Mexican trucks streaming across our southern border. The U.S. Government has agreed to allow 100 Mexican trucking companies to send trucks on the highways and byways of America. Presently, Mexican trucks may only go 20 miles inside the U.S. border. The U.S. Government says they will inspect the trucks for safety and inspect the drivers as well. Yeah, right. There are already 6,000 trucks a day crossing in each direction just between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; and only a fraction of these are inspected.

    This country has no way of inspecting each and every Mexican truck for safety, and there is no telling what could be in them, whether it is legitimate cargo, narcotics or contaminated food. Not to mention, Mexican trucks are not up to the standards of the U.S. trucking industry. Overweight, polluting Mexican trucks driven by low paid, unqualified drivers that may not even be able to read highway signs is a dangerous policy for the citizens of this country.

    Once again, our government seems to be more concerned about Mexico than it is about our Nation, our highways or our people.

    And that's just the way it is.

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    Another interesting piece in the House proceedings is a speech by Representative KING on the subjects of immigration law and immigration reform. I suggest it is worth reading in its entirety, and provide the following tease:

... first of all, I will recognize that there are employers who have premised their business plan on hiring illegal labor. ...

... Now, the request was, come to Congress and ask us to legalize this illegal behavior. It was a planned strategy from the very beginning of the setup of the business operation. ...

... I asked it a number of times of different ranks of witnesses that were there. The question again was: How many Americans die at the hands of those who do make it across the desert?

    And one of the witnesses, his answer was: ``I don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you it would be in multiples of the victims of September 11.'' Now, that, Mr. Speaker, is a stopper when you think about such a concept.

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    Over at ScotusBlog, Lyle Denniston has posted "Detainees seek quick Court ruling" and "New battle over the Great Writ," both regarding challenges to the Military Commissions Act. He is hosting the defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari.

    The battle over the extent and application of habeas corpus is more important (and more difficult) than most people appreciate. My suggestion is to read, read, read - and be slow to jump to a conclusion about which side is "right." My native instinct is to grant more "trust" to decisions supported by two independent branches of government, and to strongly resist a system that shifts a power entirely to one branch.

    In the spirit of "read, read, read," I provide links to "A Federal Appeals Court Upholds ...," by Michael C. Dorf, and "Details of the MCA decision," by Bobby Chesney.

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    The Senate will be taking up S.4 - Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. I'm not sure what I'll be watching or doing.

UPDATE @ 10:43

    The Homeland Security Bill is formally taken up. Senator Lieberman withdraws the Committee-drafted substitute amendment for S.4, and Senator Reid offers S.Amdt.275, which incorporates the Committee-drafted substitute, S.184, and other previously-proposed measures. All further amendments will use this amendment (S.Amdt.275) as the touchstone.

UPDATE @ 15:00

    Yawn .... Oh! Hi there. I've been watching other sites for news of a verdict in the Libby trial - and for the inevitable food fights.

    Meanwhile, I ran into Steven Aftergood's Senate Proposal to Criminalize Leaks Sparks Opposition article, which links to Senator Kyl's proposed amendment to the Espionage Act. The proposed amendment is a reaction to the recent leaks of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, the CIA "secret prisons" program, and similar.

    Does the law need to be amended to find a violation? If so, why are we conducting criminal "who leaked" investigations now, with a currently empaneled grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia?

UPDATE @ 15:33

    Senator Feinstein is bringing up the firing of multiple US Attorneys, and she says she thinks the use of the provisions in the USA Patriot Act that permit this are in fact a sham to obtain political ends. She is advocating a change in the law that limits the time for a non-confirmed interim replacement to 120 days - with judicial approval serving as a substitute in the event the Senate fails to obtain and act on a new appointment.

    She is also advocating calling the terminated US Attorneys before Senate Committee via subpoena. At any rate, Senator Collins will object to the amendment, because it is properly before the Judiciary Committee, and not in the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security Committee. Senator Collins said that, just the same, she thinks Senator Feinstein's concerns have merit.

UPDATE @ March 2

    I found this rant while looking for Libby trial updates. Pardon my reproducing the raw language in it, but it (the whole thing, where the raw language firms the sentiment) had me laughing. It had me laughing on account of the left hating Specter as much as the right.

On the other hand: I live in a state that until recently was represented by two of the pre-eminent assholes in the US Senate. The one that couldn't stop obsessing about fucking dogs [Santorum] got fired: the one that:

Yeah, Arlen Specter's still around: the guy's like a case of the crabs: he sucks and sucks and sucks the blood out of you, he's irritating as hell, and he gives you a bad reputation. What's to like?

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    What's the Senate up to? I don't know, I can't stop laughing.

UPDATE @ March 4

    Marty Lederman on Around the Blogosphere on GTMO Habeas-Stripping is a good summary of the positions and arguments involved in the Boumedien case.

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