Monday, September 17, 2007

Defense Authorization - Week Three [H.R.1585]

Friday's Senate Session ran from 9:45:48 to 9:46:15 a.m., a total of 27 seconds.

Week Three? Yes. This is the bill scuttled in July after a theatrical all-nighter dedicated to Levin/Reed S.Amdt.2087 (to provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq), which culminated in a failed cloture vote. Rather than finish Defense Authorization with a couple days work, Senator Reid moved on to other subjects.

Week 1: Senate action on H.R.1585 in the Week of July 9, 2007.
Week 2: Senate action on H.R.1585 in the Week of July 16, 2007.
Week 3: The page you are viewing
Weeks 4 and 5: Senate action on H.R.1585 in the Weeks of Sept 24, and Oct 1, 2007.

H.R.1585 - Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
Senate Counterpart Bills
S.1547 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
Military Construction Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
S.1548 - Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008

Text of H.R.1585
(Engrossed in House - 1.4 Mb pdf with page numbering)
House Report 110-146 (Main Report : CBO Estimate)
Text of Senate Counterpart Bills
Text of S.1547
(Reported in Senate - 1.1 Mb pdf with page numbering)
Text of S.1548
(Reported in Senate - 860 kb pdf with page numbering)
Senate Report 110-77 (Main Report)
Senate Report 110-125 (Intelligence Committee Addendum - Revamp the CSRT process, removes the part of the bill that restricts the DoD granting of security clearance.)

White House Statements of Policy

On H.R.1585 - National Defense Authorization Act, FY 2008 (House 05/16/2007)
On S.1547 - National Defense Authorization Act, FY 2008 (Senate 07/10/2007)
On H.R.2956 - To require the Secretary of Defense to commence the reduction of the number of United States Armed Forces in Iraq to a limited presence by April 1, 2008 (House 07/12/2007)

Legislative Action
Text of Amendments

H.R.1585 Summary of Action

June 28, 2007: S.Amdt.2000
July 9, 2007: S.Amdts. 2003-2024
July 10, 2007: S.Amdts. 2026-2064
July 11, 2007: S.Amdts. 2065-2127, 2130
July 12, 2007: S.Amdts. 2131-2188
July 13, 2007: S.Amdts. 2189-2209
July 16, 2007: S.Amdts. 2210-2268
July 17, 2007: S.Amdts. 2270-2313
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Sept 12, 2007: S.Amdts. 2862-2863
Sept 17, 2007: S.Amdts. 2864-2886
Sept 18, 2007: S.Amdts. 2889-2907
Sept 19, 2007: S.Amdts. 2909-2944
Sept 20, 2007: S.Amdts. 2945-3021
Sept 24, 2007: S.Amdts. 3023-3032
Sept 25, 2007: S.Amdts. 3033-3047
Sept 26, 2007: S.Amdts. 3048, 49, 58, 68-70, 73, 75
Sept 27, 2007: S.Amdts. 3076-3110
Oct 1, 2007: S.Amdts. 3112-3115

Debate of July 9, 2007: Part I
Debate of July 10, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV
Debate of July 11, 2007: Parts I-III - Part IV
Debate of July 12, 2007: Parts I-II - Part III
Debate of July 13, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III (Kyl)
Debate of July 16, 2007: Parts I-II - Part III (Kyl on detainees) - Part IV (Feinstein on GTMO) - Part V - Part VI
Debate of July 17, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III
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Debate of Sept 17, 2007: Part I (Kyl) - Part II
Debate of Sept 18, 2007: Part I
Debate of Sept 19, 2007: Part I - Part II
Debate of Sept 20, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III
Debate of Sept 21, 2007: Part I
Debate of Sept 24, 2007: Part I (Lieberman/Kyl Amdt.)
Debate of Sept 25, 2007: Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI
Debate of Sept 26, 2007: Part I - Part II (votes: federalism & Iran) - Part III - Part IV - Part V
Debate of Sept 27, 2007: Part I (pass hate crime) - Part II (UC at end) - Part III
Debate of Sept 28, 2007: Part I - Part II
Debate of Oct 1, 2007: Part I - Part II (vote on passage)


After the selection was floated prominently for the weekend, the nomination of Judge Michael B. Mukasey for Attorney General will be announced today. He's a good pick. He'll be a calming influence on the DoJ and won't create a confirmation fight. I don't expect the underlying issues of US Attorney replacement (including fighting Congressional subpoenas) and the Terrorist Surveillance Program to be resolved either as a condition of consideration, or as result of confirmation. That is, those issues proceed status quo.

Speaking of surveillance, I notice a recent shift in rhetoric from "don't worry - no known Al Qaeda in the US" to "worry - sleeper cells among us."

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A not-much discussed aspect of Iraq is the number of civilian personnel involved in the post-war rebuilding. Consider the [very biased and untrustworthy] source, but the core event reported in Blackwater License Being Pulled in Iraq (loss of license to operate) is probably true. The story hits on a number of points that will continue to be contentious (e.g., immunity from prosecution) as the nation building efforts grind on.

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A brief summary at Volokh Conspiracy, of the procedural status of the Parker case, this being the DC gun-ban case that is being appealed to the Supreme Court. Significant Developments in DC Case on Handgun and Self-Defense Bans. The article notes significant "irregularities" in the city's petition for a writ of certiorari, primarily involving a failure to claim that the Circuit Court erred in construction of the long-gun aspects of its opinion, holding, and order.

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Immigration in Defense Authorization

  • Feinstein's guest worker program for up to 1.5 million agricultural workers (S.340)
  • Durbin's DREAM Act (S.Amdt.2237 and S.Amdt.2919)

Expect continuation of Democrat proposals on ending military action in Iraq, and a do-over on the troop rotation proposals (time away from theater equal to time in theater, etc.). The content of amendments from July is very wide ranging (GTMO, habeas, get out of Iraq, immigration, environment, etc.), and fresh amendments are apt to pour in as well.

UPDATE @ 11:15

White House Fact Sheet on Michael Mukasey. I expect confirmation in slightly longer than the average of three weeks, and vocal but token opposition from the usual subjects. Mukasey's background and inclinations are well-know, and he's apt to stick to them.

President Bush Announces Judge Michael Mukasey as Nominee for Attorney General.

Until the Judge is confirmed, Assistant Attorney General Paul [sic] Keisler will serve as acting Attorney General. Accepting this assignment requires -- Peter -- I said -- Peter Keisler. Accepting this assignment requires Peter to delay the departure date he announced earlier this month, and I appreciate his willingness to do so. Peter is the acting Attorney General. Paul Clement, who agreed to take on this role, will remain focused on his duties as Solicitor General, so he can prepare for the Supreme Court term that begins just two weeks from today.

UPDATE @ 14:15

Senator Reid notes issues that will be debated under Defense Authorization:

  • Closing of the base at GTMO
  • Habeas Corpus
  • Detainee treatment - interrogation methods ("torture")
  • Duration of military action in Iraq

He says the Republicans are thwarting the will of the majority via filibuster or threat thereof, and calls on Republicans to join the Democrats to change the direction of the war in Iraq.

Next week the Senate will return to SCHIP in action on the conference committee report.

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Senator McConnell calls for speedy hearing and vote on the nomination of Mukasey to be Attorney General.

UPDATE @ 15:55

Senator Leahy says he will, at some point, again bring Senator Specter's S.Amdt.2022. Consideration of this amendment was blocked by objection from Senator DeMint on July 10. The amendment relates to statutory habeas corpus provisions.

UPDATE @ 16:36

Senators Levin and Warner, as bill managers, pass a set of 50 amendments; set aside the amendments left pending when the bill was returned to the calendar in July, and made pending a substitute amendment, as well as dueling amendments: Specter/Leahy S.Amdt.2022 (habeas corpus) and Graham S.Amdt.2064 (CSRT's). [links are to July discussion, not to text of amendments].

UPDATE @ 19:10

After expressing frustration that the minority party has been obstructing progress in the Senate (I'm detecting a pattern here), Senator Reid filed a cloture motion to limit debate on Specter/Leahy S.Amdt.2022 (habeas corpus).

I wonder if he was relieved when the Republicans didn't object to straight up or down votes on the two amendments. Then let down when he was reminded that it takes only one objecting Senator to force the use of cloture. The 60 vote hurdle is ever-present for contentious matters.


UPDATE @ Sept 18

Happy National Farm Safety and Health Week!

A shift from Defense Authorization for a good part of the day, at least as a matter of the formally pending business.

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Debate "on defense" is apt to be focused on the two pending amendments; Specter/Leahy habeas corpus and Graham CSRT process. There was some debate on those amendments yesterday, by Senators Kyl and Sessions. Unfortunately (and uncharacteristic of Senator Sessions), the "debate" was long on false assumptions and false effects.

For example, one argument against modifying the CSRT process is that 30 of the released detainees turned around and engaged in hostilities on a foreign battlefield. I don't understand the lesson or object there. Is it that the rule should be "once detained, detained for life?" That there should be no releases? What of Hicks, the recently-released Australian who has since renounced Islam? Is the lesson that the government while the current CSRT procedures were in place makes bad judgment calls by releasing people who should be detained? "30 returned to the battlefield" has great superficial appeal, but without more, it's only useful as a point of distraction.

"We" currently have some 65,000 detainees in Iraq. That's an appropriate place to keep combatants, and those detainees don't come under the umbrella of CSRT. The government chooses who is removed from that group, transported elsewhere, and subjected to "CSRT treatment." Is it reasonable to expect the evidence -- supporting a finding that the person subjected to "CSRT treatment" is a terrorist -- to be very strong, almost beyond reproach? If it is, then how does one explain that over half of the initial detainees were released?

Senator Kyl used the Nuremberg trials as an example of "good procedure," where the defendants had little in the way of trial procedure, discovery, and so forth. I don't know the details, and it would be interesting to learn the evidence that put each of those defendants on trial. I suspect each was a public figure, who gave and signed orders, and the orders were put into evidence. In such a case, exculpatory evidence is merely a dilatory tactic -- and if my sense of the defendants at Nuremberg is accurate, that trial doesn't facilitate exploration of a process to separate "wrongfully detained" people from those who should be detained for life or killed.

See too, the fact pattern and detention period of the 21 plaintiff/defendants in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950).

I don't see habeas rights as a GTMO issue, even though that's the lens it's cast in. Senator Sessions said yesterday, "Let me note that during World War II, there were 425,000 enemy combatants held within the United States, none of who were allowed relief through habeas petitions." Held within the US, not entitled to habeas. The core questions regarding the rendering of fair and impartial justice lie in a place other than being detained at GTMO.

President Bush has indicated that he would veto the Defense Authorization Bill if it is passed with the language of Sec. 1023 as it stands, unamended; and Graham's S.Amdt.2064 removes Sec. 1023 lock, stock and barrel. I consider the details on this subject "very fluid," with a credible veto threat on one side, and a willingness to compromise on the other. Senator Graham has noted an inclination to modify his CSRT amendment (S.Amdt.2064) before having it debated and voted on.

Senate July 12, 2007 - Page S9076: Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I had intended to offer amendment No. 2064 to strike certain provisions of the bill regarding detainee procedures, legal procedures affecting detainees. I have been talking with Senator Levin and his staff to see if there is some common ground we can find about this CSRT process at Guantanamo Bay--Combatant Status Review Tribunals. There are some ideas that Senator Levin has that I am going to associate myself with.

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Hearing on Warrantless Surveillance and FISA - Pt. II (scheduled for 11 a.m today)
Press Release - Announcement
Committee Letter and questions to DNI McConnell

There are some fair questions in there. The answers aren't included in DNI McConnell's prepared remarks.

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12:30: Coburn's S.Amdt.2888, to provide DC College Access assistance to students who attend private schools, was REJECTED on a 38 - 59 vote.
GOP against full choice: Barrasso, Collins, Grassley, Murkowski, Snowe, Specter, and Warner

12:53: H.R.1124 - DC College Access Act, was PASSED on a 96 - 0 vote.

Senator Byrd did not vote, which is unusual.

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Very interesting comparison between Blackwater and military approach to personnel security.

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Hahahah. Susan Collins says "I have an eloquent speech, and ask it to be printed in the record." She's in favor of granting a representative to the residents in the District of Columbia, and to have the Courts sort it out.

14:52: The cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the consideration of S.1257, to give the District of Columbia a representative in the House, was [guessed 56-38 at 15:00] REJECTED on a 57 - 42 vote.
Senator Byrd was the sole absent Senator.

15:08: Senator Smith attempted to bring up Hate Crimes legislation in the form of Senator Kennedy's S.Amdt.2067, and was shot down by objection from Senator McCain on the grounds that this is a Defense Bill, cramped for time.

Senator Biden rose to call up his S.Amdt.2335, but backed down from the formality of introducing the amendment at this time. The amendment calls for upgrading all Hum-Vees to the up-armored version. I again suggest a reading of this comparison between Blackwater and military approach to personnel security.

15:21: Senator Reid described the debate "form" or "schedule" of handling Iraq measures (these are the contentious proposals such as troop rotation, pullout, restricted funding, etc.), as being brought up within the venue of Defense Authorization rather than standing separately.

16:21: Senator Durbin's DREAM Act, S.Amdt.2237, makes its expected appearance. It wasn't debated last time Defense Authorization came around. My guess is Senator Durbin gets a chance to talk about this before it's relegated to disposal on a point of order. If this can't pass in the context of Immigration Reform (S.1639), College Cost Reduction (H.R.2669), or Homeland Security (H.R.2638) why should it pass in the context of defense authorization?


UPDATE @ Sept 19

Another withdrawn nomination, "Anita K. Blair, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, which was sent to the Senate on January 9, 2007."

Judge Mukasey's nomination hasn't yet been submitted to the Senate.

Unrelated, but an interesting tidbit about degraded GPS facilities.

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Senator Sessions on the DREAM Act

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One hour of debate starting just after 9:30 this morning, followed by a cloture vote (at about 10:30) to limit debate on the Specter/Leahy/Dodd "habeas corpus" amendment. Brief discussion from July, and in the same post, repeated here in case others are inclined to fact find for themselves, read S.185 - Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, as well as the accompanying Senate Report 110-90. (Senator Specter introduced the same language late in the 109th Congress, S.4081).

The amendment isn't as simple or black and white as the sound bite politics make it out to be, and the "right" to habeas is intertwined with the CSRT process and the more or less universally recognized desire to make minimal error in use of force against innocents, and to give a fair (and checkably so) shake to all accused.

To the extent the system fails to meet those fundamental expectations, there's plenty of blame to go around -- Congress for not acting to form a tribunal system in the first place, and the administration for demanding (and getting) lack of transparency while filling the power vacuum with its own novel (new) "system of secret justice." Some of my previous coverage and opinion:

Senator Specter on Legal Process for Detainees (Sept 25, 2006)

[Quoting Senator Specter on Sept 20] "The fact is, Congress has been derelict in its duty in providing rules for military commissions, and it is our responsibility under article I, section 8. The Senator from Illinois and I filed legislation shortly after 9/11, 2001, to accomplish that, as did other Senators. [Bills were offered in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and now in 2006] The Congress did not act because this issue has been too hot to handle, too complicated, too dicey. It is not to the credit of the Congress, which sat back and did nothing."

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Establishing Military Commissions (Sept 26, 2006)

I think this bill will bite us in the ass. I think the Republicans engaged in sloppy rhetoric and logic (not that the DEMs did any better), and in some cases, outright misrepresentation (not that the DEMs did any better). There were many many straw men set up and knocked down, many invalid comparisons and parallels, godawful implicit assumptions that "took" the final question as answered (everyone we are talking about is the worst of the worst, therefore I'll talk about something other than how the United States will determine who is the worst of the worst), and in general an absence of serious debate.

Some of the better Senate debate on the subject (this year) was conducted between Senators Specter and Graham on March 7 and with Senators Kyl, Specter and Graham on March 8.

In my opinion, there's no urgent need to take up this amendment, because the issues, with all of their warts, are squarely before the Courts. SCOTUS made a rare reversal when it decided to rehear the Boumediene case. See this June 29 entry for additional links and discussion of that under-reported event, and this from June 11, on al-Marri.

I still hold my speculation that Specter's sense of urgency is driven by a desire to not have the Courts chastise Congress for its manifest shortcomings in this area. But it's too late for that, and the eventual settling point will be better if the legislation follows (or limits, as the case may be) the holding of the Supreme Court.

As noted above, the habeas point doesn't, on its own, settle matters. The other pieces of the puzzle involve the CSRT process itself, and could be broached in the context of Graham's S.Amdt.2064. Seeing as how the Senate is at least as dysfunctional now as it was last year, I expect the same outcome this time around -- that being that CSRT and habeas will be "per details established by the administration, and not by Congress." I predict this cloture motion will not get the 60 votes it needs to pass.

09:46: Senator Graham is misrepresenting the effect of the proposed bill, right off the bat, as giving habeas rights to soldiers. He finally narrows the effect of the proposed law to what it really is, that being limited to -some- of the detainees at GTMO. But he's glossing over the important distinction between "enemy combatant" and "unlawful enemy combatant." How important? The military judges at GTMO have dismissed every case brought before them (okay, there have only been two) on the distinction, and appeal of those dismissals is still pending.

Nothing in this proposed amendment would fetter battlefield conduct and the usual law of war, contrary to Senator Graham's hype.

09:56: Senator Specter's habeas argument is based on finding the CSRTs to be fundamentally unfair, and he wants the Courts to fill that void. He's incorrect in stating the Congress established CSRT's though, except in the sense of being a rubberstamp formality for administration-proposed language.

10:08: Senator Kyl's "enemy combatants" argument is a straw man. POW cases (10 USC) are expressly kept in that military law venue by the proposed amendment, being forbidden from bleeding over to civilian courts (28 USC). I do agree with Kyl's note that it's better to wait for the Court to decide, than to continue the whipsaw action.

I have to laugh at the "this is not the US criminal process," following the description of released prisoners going right back to their old tricks. Sounds like the usual process to me. Incarcerate the innocent and release the guilty. Looks like the military isn't any more successful in sorting out the players than are civilian judges. Welcome to the real world.

I'm curious as to the release of the names of 200 unindicted co-conspirators. How many were on "wanted" posters, so that release of their supposedly-classified "wanted" status amounts to a non-issue?

Google search: Omar Rahman unindicted coconspirators -- Wow. This hits on US Justice Dept to Co-Sponsor Convention of ISNA - Unindicted Co-Conspirator in HLF Trial (note the recently released list of unindicted co-conspirators here? Same issue that Kyl bemoaned, is it not?)

Ali A. Mohamed's name was No. 109 on the list of unindicted coconspirators in the Brooklyn cell. The former Green Beret was never charged in the case, but he was well-known to prosecutors and FBI agents -- as an FBI informant, as an untrustworthy individual, and as a man who had attracted the attention of U.S. military intelligence.

Ali Mohamed and the 1993 WTC Bombing

Murky stuff, indeed.

10:47: Cloture vote begins. Predictions: vote concludes at 11:20 with cloture being rejected on a 56-39 vote.

11:10: I have 44 Nay votes on my informal tally - cloture can't be invoked. Hey, my tally was right, then Snowe changed her vote to Aye. Not a bad guess all around, except the Senate was quicker on getting its vote done than I thought they would be, and more of them were "in" than I thought.

11:11 The cloture motion to limit debate on S.Amdt.2022, to restore statutory habeas corpus to certain cases, was REJECTED on a 56 - 43 vote.
GOP Aye votes: Hagel, Lugar, Smith, Snowe, Specter, Sununu
DEM Nay vote: Lieberman

UPDATE @ 11:22

Senator Levin notes Graham S.Amdt.2064 will be set aside, as progress is being made on negotiating changes to it.

Webb/Hagel troop rotation amendment is to be brought up, and Senator McCain notes that a Warner "sense of the Senate" amendment will be offered in a side-by-side competition with Webb. Further, that he'd like to have a time agreement on the combined debate. Senator Levin hedges on whether or not there will be direct 60 vote hurdles for the amendments, only saying that agreement there will be part of a larger unanimous consent agreement.

The Webb/Hagel troop rotation amendment is S.Amdt.2909, the text of which is not available in the Congressional Record.

[#2909 is at Page 11759]

UPDATE @ 13:00

On Blackwater operations in Iraq, this from AP:

"It will be difficult for the Iraqi government to make them leave the country because they protect the embassy," said an aide to al-Maliki. "Maybe they will make a commitment that they study their moves" or agree to change the name of the company.

LOL. "Change the name of the company." I don't think Iraqis are stupid, sheesh.

A 2004 regulation issued by the U.S. occupation authority granted security contractors full immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. Unlike American military personnel, the civilian contractors are also not subject to U.S. military law either.

Hassan al-Rubaie, a member of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, said an investigative committee has been formed to consider lifting the contractors' immunity.

Now that's a good gig, immunity all around. Plus, working for Blackwater involves more effective protection (e.g., better vehicles), and pays better than being in the military.

UPDATE @ 16:00

Look for votes starting shortly after 5:15 p.m. on a side-by-side competition between the Webb amendment and what will be a McCain amendment for the "sense of the Senate" on the same subject. Each amendment being subjected to a 60 vote hurdle for passing.

UPDATE @ 18:22

Both the Webb and McCain amendments failed to obtain 60 votes. [ Yaaaawn ]

Webb #2909: 56 - 44 vote
McCain #2918: 55 - 45 vote

The "usual suspects" crossed over on the Webb amendment: Coleman, Collins, Hagel, Smith, Snowe and Sununu - Lieberman. Hagel didn't even vote Aye for the McCain amendment; but Bayh, Biden, Johnson, Landrieu, Lieberman, and both Nelsons did.

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Senator Cornyn reintroduces his resolution condemning the MoveOn.org NYT advertisement. [S.Amdt.2934] Senator Durbin says the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were likewise impugning the military, and calls for a repudiation of their activity too, for consistency's sake. Is Senator Kerry running for higher office again? Senator Boxer chimes in against the Swifties.


UPDATE @ Sept 20

President Bush has not yet sent the formal nomination of Michael B. Mukasey to the Senate. What the public record shows is an intention to nominate, but not yet a nomination to the Senate. I hope the "intention to nominate" wasn't given in the same vein as Senator Craig's intention to resign. [Bad joke]

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Beldar has the best coverage and commentary regarding the Rather v. CBS complaint

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The White House is pushing FISA modernization and retroactive immunity.

President Bush Discusses the Protect America Act of 2007
Fact Sheet: FISA 101: Why FISA Modernization Amendments Must Be Made Permanent

Senator Reid's brief response.

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[Mr. Reid]: We also are going to have a vote at noon on Monday. Everyone should be aware of that. It is not going to be a judge's vote, it is going to be an important vote.

I noticed this when Senator Reid said it yesterday, and speculate that the "important vote" is either on some aspect of conduct of the Iraq war, or on the issue of appropriations in general, and the prospect of government shutdown if appropriations aren't passed by the end of September. Senator Reid has been beating the "Republican obstructionist" drum steadily.

Still, I'm curious as to precisely what he has up his sleeve. Three day advance notice of a specific Monday noon vote strikes me as odd, for many reasons. We'll know soon enough. This sort of vote scheduling is part of a larger media campaign.

Maybe the vote will be on Senator Durbin's "modified DREAM Act." (S.Amdt.2919 - discussed in a Washington Times article by Stephen Dinan, 'Dream' for illegals gets a wake-up call)

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Federation of American Scientists commentary and links in US Embassy in Baghdad Sees Widespread Iraqi Corruption reads to me as a precursor to the replacement of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The draft report has been out at least since August 30.

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Pending:
  • Graham/Kyl S.Amdt.2064, to strike section 1023, relating to the granting of civil rights to terror suspects.
  • Cornyn S.Amdt.2934, to express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and the integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the United States Armed Forces.
Past "review" of Graham's S.Amdt.2064

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Senator Reid has S.2070 - A bill to prevent Government shutdowns, placed on the calendar. It was first read last night. This is a 100% Republican bill, not one of the 15 sponsor/co-sponsors is a Democrat.

Senator DeMint Press Release - September 19, 2007
Republican legislation would prevent another shutdown - by Alexander Bolton (The Hill)

Pure speculation on my part: a Democrat will object to proceeding to the bill (arguing that the Congress would be well able to pass the appropriations but for Republican obstruction), and a cloture motion will be filed by the Republican side. The important vote on Monday will be on the cloture motion on the motion to proceed. The stage is being set to cast blame on Republicans for failing to pass appropriations.

UPDATE @ 10:06

Senator Coburn notes that the Congress is about to increase the debt limit, and he extends his remarks to unfunded future liabilities. The debt limit is somewhere just south of 9 trillion dollars, and the unfunded federal liabilities are on the order of 70 trillion dollars. Those numbers are so big that they defy comprehension.

If one had a business at the time Jesus Christ was living, and it lost one million dollars per day, every day since then, that business wouldn't be even one trillion dollars in debt until seven hundred years from now.

UPDATE @ 12:15

Voting on dueling "the public is mean" amendments. Maybe the Senate can bring back the dueling pardon amendments, when the Democrats were chastising President Bush for commuting Scooter Libby's sentence, and the Republicans were chastising President Clinton for a pocketful of last-minute pardons.

60 votes being required to pass, one of two measures fell:

Boxer #2947: Rejected 51-46 vote
Cornyn #2934: Passed 72-25 vote

Boxer's argument about "blaming organizations" (or avoiding such) was a hoot. The Senate and House OFTEN invoke outside organizations, both pro and con. See ACLU, Heritage Society, Federalists and the ABA, assorted environmentalist organizations, PETA, and so on. All these debates and votes prove is that election politics doesn't end with elections, and that there is room for election politics on the floor of Congress. Same old, same old.

13:00: Next up, Feingold #2924 for two hours of debate, 90 minutes under Senator Feingold's control, 30 minutes under Senator McCain's control. A 60 vote hurdle is in place for this amendment. Feingold's amendment calls for what amounts to pull-out of Iraq by June 30, 2008.

Senator McCain asks whether the Levin/Reed amendment follows, whether each Iraq related amendment be conducted with a 60 vote hurdle, and if all amendments are to be filed by 3:00 p.m. today? Senator Levin says those are roughly his understandings, and that formal agreement close to those parameters (the DEMs have been given until 4:00 p.m. to file amendments) is likely.

Senator McCain says he doubts he'll need 30 minutes of time to make his points in opposition, and suggests a vote on the Feingold amendment could happen well before the two hours allotted for debate.

Voting started at 14:54, and concluded at 15:18.
Feingold #2924: Rejected 28-70

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Press Conference by the President - September 20, 2007

Senator Leahy on today's SJC Meeting - See comments pertaining to judicial nominations, starting about half way down the page (following remarks about the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act).

No more votes today. Debate on Levin/Reed today and tomorrow, with a vote on that tomorrow. Then on to a Biden amendment (also tomorrow). Action on Defense Authorization will continue on Monday. Senator Reid also announced a vote on the conference report for H.R.1495 - Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). but I'm not clear if that vote will be a brief interruption to Defense Authorization, or follow it. The House passed the WRDA conference report on August 1st.

Still missing from the schedule: Graham's S.Amdt.2064 dealing with Section 1023/CSRT's. Section 1023 is a will veto matter, so leaving it unresolved as a matter of Senate debate doesn't leave it unresolved in the end.

15:57: Schedule details A vote on Levin/Reed S.Amdt.2898 is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, followed by taking up a Biden amendment. There is no time agreement on debate of the Biden amendment, and according to what I pick up from Senator McCain's comments, an amendment by Kyl/Lieberman will run side-by-side with the Biden amendment.

Senator Reid discloses that the noon Monday vote is on WRDA, and the Monday timing was based on objection from a Republican. If it wasn't for that objection, the WRDA vote would be conducted at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow. So, the threat of a noon Monday vote (an arbitrary schedule set by Reid) is meant to bring pressure to the objecting Republican, because Senators normally use Monday as a travel day, not a voting day.

UPDATE @ 18:30

The Kyl/Lieberman amendment is a sense of the Senate on the subject of Iran, and has been introduced. It will be listed as one of several pending amendments when the Senate resumes tomorrow.

This from Patterico had me laughing from the get go. Somebody get John Dean an interview with Olberman.

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On the subject of government surveillance, the blog post Does it Help our Enemies and Hurt Americans when Congress Debates Surveillance Programs? builds on a Reuters article, Eavesdrop debate will cost U.S. lives: spy chief.

My suggestion is to have a vigorous and very public debate, followed by a passing of a law that has strong protection for personal privacy. Now, here's the trick. The law is to be phony, a shell, meant to FOOL people, not meant to be followed. Just like the current privacy law -- there in appearance only, but not followed in fact. Make it so any disclosure of "breaking the law" (e.g., Risen's article in the NYT that disclosed the Terrorist Surveillance Program) is punishable as disclosing a state secret.

If some joker of a judge doesn't "get it," that that law is meant to be phony, Congress can step in and grant retroactive immunity. Repeat the cycle of false indignation, Congressional debate, passing privacy protection laws, ignoring the law, and granting immunity when caught, as necessary. Usually enough time will elapse between "getting caught" events that people won't catch on. The last time Congress was playing the false indignation role was 30 years ago. Meanwhile, prosecution of leakers and the press should keep public awareness to a minimum, and might make for a longer cycle time.

The hearing was by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and was titled "Administration Views of FISA Authorities". I haven't seen a transcript or other record, and the Reuters article linked above lacks necessary context for DNI McConnell's statement.

20:37: Adjourned until 9:15 tomorrow. Senator Kerry droned tonight. Senator Sessions was off in the corner muttering, "Don't tase me bro'!"


UPDATE @ Sept 21

The Senate debated without debating [plus Sept 21 debate with debating] and passed H.R.3580 - Amending the Food and Drug Act. See S.1082 and Senator Grassley speech of July 26 for more of the Senate action on this bill.

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One vote today, that on the Levin/Reed amendment, and that vote at 10:00 a.m. The phony crisis with the Monday noon vote on WRDA has been averted, the WRDA vote will be Monday evening.

Pending:
  • Graham/Kyl S.Amdt.2064, to strike section 1023
  • Levin/Reed S.Amdt.2898, to provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq. [rejected 47-47]
  • Kyl/Lieberman S.Amdt.3017, to express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran.

I noticed in the prayer, both notice of a Jewish holiday (Yom Kippur) and, talking to God now, thanking Him for His sacrifice, which I took as a reference to Jesus Christ. One of the hazards, I suppose, of non-denominational prayer.

As many people prepare for Yom Kippur, we thank You for Your atoning sacrifice that purchased our freedom.

10:22: Levin/Reed #2898: Rejected 47-47
GOP Aye votes: Hagel, Smith, Snowe (Hagel, Smith and Snowe were cosponsors)

See for comparison, the July 18 failed cloture vote on Levin's #2087: Rejected 52-47
GOP Aye votes: Collins, Hagel, Smith, Snowe (Hagel, Smith and Snow were cosponsors).

Looks as though the "pull out" sentiment has lost steam, not gained it. Adding in the not-voters would have produced a 50-50 split today.

10:22: Schedule details Vote on Biden/Brownback "sense of the Senate" amendment #2997 around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, a vote on the Kyl/Lieberman #3017 (Iran) amendment shortly after that.

A bit of back and forth between Senators Levin and McCain on the Wounded Warrior legislation, which is being held up by GOP objection to naming conferees - until the House passes its version of Wounded Warrior.

Senator Biden notes GOP cosponsors Brownback, Specter, Smith and Hutchison for his "federalism for Iraq" or a "political surge" for Iraq.

11:22: Senator Warner saying political reconciliation needs to come from the top down, not from the bottom up. We need more centralized government and control, says he -- and less input from the people. Damn those voters.

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US Resumes Blackwater Convoys in Iraq. Totally predictable outcome. The call is for money compensation, and an end to immunity. The victims might get money (probably not), but there is no way that Blackwater will operate unless it has immunity. Remove immunity, and the private security details will leave. The US needs the private security details, therefore the US will not permit an end to immunity. See also Blackwater Iraq killings highlight lack of legal recourse against US contractors: NYT.

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Actions/News from the White House ...

Presidential Declaration of Continuation of National Emergency

The President has named Adam Belmar to be Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications for Production. Mr. Belmar currently serves as Senior Producer of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" at ABC News.

As of the morning of September 21, President Bush has not sent a formal nomination of Michael B. Mukasey to the Senate.

UPDATE @ 13:45

Various speeches, not on the bill. Senator Hatch talked about nominees, including Mukasey, and then went onto judicial nominees in particular -- calling for votes on Southwick and Elrod, and rebutting the charge that he was "pocket filibustering" President Clinton's judicial nominations.

And as if on cue, Mukasey Nomination Sent to the Senate.

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Green ... what can't be obtained by legislation, by golly, can be obtained by executive fiat and regulation.

Q Does the U.S. oppose the EU's plan to impose strict tailpipe emissions? And can you discuss the progress of the White House working group on C02 emissions, tailpipe regulations?

CHAIRMAN CONNAUGHTON: It's our philosophy that each nation has the sovereign capacity to decide for itself what its own portfolio of policies should be. So Europe should be setting its objectives, just as the United States sets its own objectives.

I would observe on your specific question, the President, in his State of the Union address, has committed to replace 20 percent of gasoline by -- within the next 10 years, and we're doing that for the purposes of improving energy security, and he was very clear it's also for the purposes of reducing greenhouse gasses.

In April of this year, in an executive order, he directed the Secretary of Transportation and the Administrator of the EPA to go ahead and try to achieve that through regulations, even as we are waiting on Congress to do that through legislation. It is remarkable -- the President put forward the most aggressive proposal for replacing gasoline last January; he asked Congress to achieve that objective by the summer driving season. Well, school is back in, where's the legislation? We'd like to see legislation, but we're not going to wait for it. We're going to do it through regulation anyway. And so that's a good sign of our own pursuit of this strategy.

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Senator Murkowski said she has been working with Senator Casey on a "diplomatic surge" amendment for Iraq. (S.Amdt.2931) Move over, Senator Biden, you have competition. Not really, the two amendments cover substantially different territory, and neither one of them includes an admonition to work on a Status of Forces Agreement, as Lugar/Warner #2208 does.

14:24: Adjourned until 2 p.m. Monday


UPDATE @ Sept 22

Senator Dorgan's speech harped on a few interesting memes.

  • safe haven for al Queda (the Senator was incensed at the notion of "safe haven," rather than taking the term as impugning the countries that grant it)
  • "A [FBI informant, Donald Vance] whistleblower who saw illegal activity, saw the selling of improper guns in Iraq [by a private US military contractor], some to insurgents, he felt, went to authorities. His country, the United States of America, held him prisoner for 97 days. No habeas corpus ... No right to contact an attorney. If this doesn't disturb the American people, I don't know what will disturb the American people."
  • Fraud and waste by government contractors, taking advantage of the limited extent of oversight
  • The system for whistleblowing to the feds on fraud and corruption is a sham and a fraud

That Donald Vance story is intriguing. I wonder what's behind it.

CBS, the NYT and MSNBC like the guy, he earned a prize that was also given to Kristen Breitweiser. With friends like that, the automatic conclusion reached by many conservative Republicans will be that Vance's story is politically motivated baloney. See Freepers for a classic example. That knee-jerk reaction is certain to be repeated elsewhere if the story gets any traction.

Donald Vance has the nerve to sue the Donald Rumsfeld and the US government. The case is Vance v. Rumsfeld (1:06-cv-06964), filed in the Northern District of Illinois and assigned to Judge Shadur, reassigned to Judge Andersen on February 21st. The amended complaint, filed on February 12, 2007, is available here (470 kb pdf). Without looking at the case, the government's defense is "state secret." Vance loses again. HaHa!

[Off to get the docket ... the government moved to transfer the case out of Illinois, and the most recent action, September 19th, is a Court Order denying the Motion to Transfer. The government hasn't yet answered the complaint, being granted an extension until 30 days after the venue decision was rendered, and no Discovery Order has been issued. It's not yet time to find a substantive objection, on grounds of state secret or anything else. On reading a number of the hearing transcripts, the government's defense appears to be more rooted in inability to bring civil rights actions (Bivens) against the military, than in state secret.]

The devil in me is contemplating dropping a hint that this case, being in the Northern District of Illinois, is in Patrick Fitzgerald's jurisdiction. I wonder how many people will, independently of any instigation, "blame Fitzgerald" for this case. Makes as much sense as blaming Fitzgerald for classified information being inadvertantly disclosed to defense in the Holy Land Case in Texas.

Interesting coincidence? or a different Donald Vance? Ahhh ... looks to be an older, therefore different Donald Vance.

BLITZER: .. in addition to being a good friend, you of course have been the [Chandra Levy] family's longtime personal attorney

The law firm representing the Iraq-incarcerated Donald Vance? Loevy and Loevy.

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S.456 - Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007 was "debated" and passed. More gang-related activity being made a federal offense. When I was a kid, we used to joke "Don't make a federal offense out of it!" This passage is an early step in the legislative process. The House's counterpart, H.R.1582, is still in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. If you read through the bill, note that Senator Feinstein's S.Amdt.3022 strikes all of Section 215, on prohibition of firearms possession.

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Monday schedule:

  • 2:00 p.m. - Open for morning business
  • 3:00 p.m. - Take up H.R.1495 - Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)
  • 5:45 p.m. - Vote on passage of WRDA Conference Report
Tuesday schedule:
  • 10:00 a.m. - Open and move immediately to H.R.1585 - Defense Auth
  • Debate Biden/Brownback #2997, "political-federalism surge," for 30 minutes
  • Vote on Biden/Brownback with 60 vote threshold
  • Debate Kyl/Lieberman #3017, to express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran

Senate Judiciary Committee
Tuesday September 25, 9:30 a.m.: Strengthening FISA: Does the Protect America Act Protect Americans' Civil Liberties and Enhance Security?
Thursday, September 27, 10:00 a.m.: Hearings to examine S.1267, S.2035 (both are press shield measures) and other proposed legislation

House Committee on Armed Services
Wednesday, September 26, 10:00 a.m.: to mark up H.R. 2826, to restore habeas corpus for individuals detained at GTMO

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Donald Vance, move over, you have company. Sort of.

Feds Target Blackwater in Weapons Probe - AP

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday. ... two former Blackwater employees - Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. - are cooperating with federal investigators.

The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WH Presser of Sept 21 - mostly about Blackwater

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