Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Starting the Second Session of the 110th Senate

Happy New Year!

The Senate now stands in adjournment, sine die. The official, formal end of the first session of the 110th Senate is recent history. Right now, the Senate is in between the two sessions that make up a two-year Congress.

A slightly interesting procedural point, the pending legislative business survived adjournment sine die. It's yet to be seen whether or not S.2248 remains pending business, without further agreement or action, after the second session is opened.

                             CALENDAR OF BUSINESS

                           Thursday, January 3, 2008
      
                         SENATE CONVENES AT 12:00 NOON
   
                               PENDING BUSINESS
   
                            S. 2248 (ORDER NO. 512)
   
       A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978,
   to modernize and streamline provisions of that act, and for other
   purposes. (Dec. 17, 2007.)

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The balance of the pro forma sessions scope out per this unanimous consent agreement:

... at the close of the pro forma session on December 31, the Senate stand adjourned sine die, pursuant to S. Con. Res. 61, as amended, until
12 noon, Thursday, January 3, 2008, for a pro forma session only, and the Senate then recess until
Monday, January 7, at 9 a.m., to meet in pro forma session, as provided previously, and meet on the following days and recess over each period:
Wednesday, January 9, 11 a.m.;
Friday, January 11 at 9:30 a.m.;
Tuesday, January 15, at 11 a.m.; and
Friday, January 18, at 10 a.m.;
that at the close of that session, the Senate then reconvene on Tuesday, January 22, at 10 a.m.; that the Journal of proceedings be approved to date, the morning hour be deemed expired, the time for the two leaders be reserved for their use later in the day, and then there be a period for the transaction of morning business for 60 minutes, with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each, and the time be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees, with the Republicans controlling the first half and the majority controlling the final portion, and that the Senate then proceed to S. 1200 [Indian Health Care Improvement Act], as previously provided.

December 19 through December 31 constituted a single legislative day (December 19), because there was no adjournment within that time period. Likewise, January 3 through January 18 (at least, maybe through January 22) will be on a single legislative day, that being January 3rd.


January 4

Senator Landrieu was the presiding officer yesterday, when the Senate formally "convened in" the 2d session of the 110th Congress. The January 3rd meeting started about four minutes late.

I was curious as to whether of not pending legislation could survive adjournment sine die and the convening of a second (or later) session of a given Congress. According to the legislative calendar, the status of "pending" can survive the transition from one session of the Senate to the next.

                             CALENDAR OF BUSINESS

                            Monday, January 7, 2008

                         SENATE CONVENES AT 9:00 A.M.  

                               PENDING BUSINESS

                            S. 2248 (ORDER NO. 512) 

       A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978,
   to modernize and streamline provisions of that act, and for other
   purposes. (Dec. 17, 2007.)


January 7

Here's a persistent name from the past. Instead of a nomination, an "intention to designate," and as "Acting," rather than outright holding the position.

WH Personnel Announcement - January 4, 2007

The President intends to designate Richard Stickler, of West Virginia, to be Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health.

I bet the designation will anger a couple of senators.

Stickler was nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health on September 15, 2005 (nomination returned on August 03, 2006); again on September 05, 2006 (nomination returned on September 29, 2006); again on November 14, 2006 (nomination returned on December 09, 2006); and is currently pending in the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on a nomination made on January 09, 2007.

Mr. BYRD ... [In January 2007], I met with the Assistant Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health, Richard Stickler. Mr. Stickler is in his current position because of a recess appointment in October 2006. He has not been confirmed by the Senate, and so his appointment will expire at the end of [2007]. I am hopeful that he will prove himself a friend of the coal miner. He has a dedicated team at MSHA, which includes many former coal miners who would like to see MSHA do better. I am convinced that more can be done. The question is whether the Department of Labor and the White House will let MSHA do what needs to be done.

-----

Opposition to the Nomination of Richard Stickler - June 13, 2006

[Senator Frist had filed a cloture motion to limit debate on this nomination, but withdrew it the day the cloture vote was to be conducted, June 13, 2006.]


January 11

A death blow to Tape-gate, from the judge who issued the evidence preservation order in 2005. Judge Kennedy Order Refusing to Investigate CIA Tape Destruction.

---===---

The legislative calendar now points out that the Senate is still on the legislative day of January 3rd, having gone into recess on several occasions since opening the second session of the 110th Congress, but not having adjourned the meeting that was opened on January 3rd.

                             CALENDAR OF BUSINESS

                           Friday, January 11, 2008

                      (Legislative Day, January 3, 2008)

                         SENATE CONVENES AT 9:30 A.M.  

                                  (In Recess)

                               PENDING BUSINESS

                            S. 2248 (ORDER NO. 512) 

       A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978,
   to modernize and streamline provisions of that act, and for other
   purposes. (Dec. 17, 2007.)
C-SPAN2 broadcast today's session. Senator Webb was presiding.

---===---

SCOTUSblog reports on the US government's brief in the DC gun-rights case, U.S. supports gun rights, but more narrowly.

It's a good read. I reject the position the Solicitor General has staked out (particularly, the "intermediate" standard of review, and the notion that the case needs to be remanded for further evidentiary findings), and I hope the Supreme Court does as well.

SCOTUSblog also has links to the amicus briefs: Amicus briefs for D.C. available in guns case.

With all the attention on firearms, I wonder if there is any consideration of OLDER arms, that are prohibited or requiring licensing in some cases, e.g., crossbows, which are restricted in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York City and vicinity.

Additional thought-provoking commentary at Balkinize: Explaining The Bush Administration's Tepid Support For Gun Rights.


January 16

SENATORS HOPE TO BAN JUDGES FROM EDUCATIONAL JUNKETS.

That would be Senators Feingold and Kyl, working together.

---===---

The House is back in session, as of January 15th.

I wonder what's up with Mississippi? Trent Lott resigns, and now Representative Roger F. Wicker resigns too.

Wexler calls for impeachment of Vice President Cheney, and immediately following ...

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Visitors in the gallery are guests of the House and shall refrain from displays of approval or disapproval.

---===---

The DoJ has used every single slot for issuing e-mail press releases. If one believes them, at any rate.


January 17

The House yesterday passed a modified form of Defense Authorization (H.R.4986 instead of H.R.1585), rather than attempt a veto override. The vote was 369 - 46.

Representative Kucinich summarizes the opposition at page H258 of the Congressional Record.

---===---

And what up with ex-representative Siljander being indicted on terrorism-related charges? Yikes!

The nearly-always interesting Marty Lederman has a piece on tape-gate.
The Real CIA Tapes Scandal That Everyone is Ignoring.

His conclusion is that recording of high value interrogations is valuable, and SHOULD be the rule, not the exception.

---===---

Over at NRO, from Lisa Schiffren, Dinner in Kabul. Absolutely riveting reading, a first hand account of the terrorist attack on the Serena Hotel.


January 18

According to today's legislative calendar, the pro forma session for today will not be conducted according to the terms of the unanimous consent agreement. Instead of "convening" at 10:00 a.m. (the terms of the consent agreement), the Senate is scheduled to convene at 11:00 a.m. After that, the next meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, January 22nd.

[Update @ 10:01 - The legislative calendar was in error. Senator Cardin performed the duties of the chair at about 10:00 a.m. this morning.]

---===---

SCOTUSblog: Kucinich seeks to get on Texas ballot

Kucinich, in filing to get on the March 4 Democratic ballot, crossed out a line on the filing papers that required him to swear that he would "fully support the Democratic nominee for President, whoever that shall be." Kucinich contends that the oath requirement violates his constitutional rights to free speech and to gather support for his candidacy. Because of his refusal, the state Democratic Party declined to accept his application. Kucinich and Nelson then sued.

Yep - seeking a restraining order from Justice Scalia. Texas courts uphold the oath requirement.

---===---

The Clinton's are probably livid, what with all these "votes worth five times as much" being allowed by the Nevada courts ... Nevada: Court Rules Strip Caucuses Can Proceed.

---===---

In the "So what?" department (also known as "duh"), Canada document includes US on list of states where prisoners risk torture.

This will provoke another round of label-affixing argument -- "it's not torture if it's not a war crime," "water boarding doesn't cause pain," etc.

---===---

Debbie Schlussel: What Happened to My Former Boss Mark Siljander?, and further commentary at Patterico, "Desperation and money do bad things."

---===---

Bernanke backs stimulus plan - Washington Times

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke yesterday embraced congressional plans to quickly pass an economic stimulus package of up to $150 billion including middle-class tax rebates, investment tax breaks, and unemployment and food assistance for the poor.

Mr. Bernanke's largely unqualified support for the plans outlined by Democratic leaders appeared to push President Bush into the camp favoring immediate action, while it put on the defensive Republican leaders like Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, who told The Washington Times on Wednesday that he thought stimulus would do the economy more harm than good.

Not that I'm an economics expert either, but the general idea of top-down stimulus to the economy tells me there is too much power concentrated at the top. For example, I think the energy bill will be BAD for the economy in the long run, in that it micromanages via legislative and political policy what should be market-driven outcomes.

That being said, broad swaths of the US economy are pretty much driven by FEDERAL micromanagement: agriculture, housing, energy, and soon, health care.

Press Briefing by Dana Perino - Dec 6, 2007

Q Okay, then a broader question. How is this not, as some are suggesting, sort of an abandonment of free-market principles and a bailout? Isn't it really a reward for risky decisions and bad economic behavior?

MS. PERINO: Well, a massive wave of foreclosures is not in anyone's interests. It's not in the lender's interests, the service provider's interests, the home owner, the community, the neighbor. And so what the President did is help facilitate a private sector agreement. Not a penny of taxpayer revenue is going to go towards this agreement, and it's all private-sector-run. And I think that because they've come up with this new standard, I think that it will certainly help in the future. And it's a good private sector way to handle the problem.

-----

White House Fact Sheet: December 2007 Marks Record 52nd Consecutive Month of Job Growth

  • Last month, the President built on steps the Administration has taken to help American families avoid foreclosure by signing into law the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. This Act will protect families from higher taxes when they refinance their home mortgages. In addition, the Administration has pursued important administrative changes to give the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) the flexibility to help more families stay in their homes. With these changes, FHA projects to help approximately 300,000 families in total refinance their mortgages by the end of 2008 under a new initiative called FHASecure. The private-sector HOPE NOW alliance, facilitated by Secretaries Paulson and Jackson, has also developed a plan to help eligible homeowners avoid foreclosure.
  • The President urges Congress to complete work on legislation to help American families keep their homes. Congress took one positive step by voting to pass the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. Now they should complete work on the President's FHA modernization bill and pass a reform bill that strengthens the regulation of government sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

President Bush Discusses Economy, Growth Package

Not much substantive material there, other than the "size" of the government intervention he's advocating is about 1% of the GDP, or about 130 billion dollars. I wonder is this "attention" from President Bush will spook the public.

An in the theme of micromanaged economies provoking international ripples, check out "U.S. Big Government Hurts Africans" by David Freddoso.

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I remember this story from October 2006 or so. Surprising it's still making the rounds ...
Secret Service: Detailed Look at '06 Turmoil - NYT.

... Secret Service agents -- under oath in court depositions -- accusing one another of unethical and perhaps even illegal conduct in the handling of Mr. Howards's arrest and the official accounting of it.

From boyhood protest to taking on Cheney - Oct 21, 2006
Man files suit over Cheney encounter - Oct 4, 2006
Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest - Oct 4, 2006

Odd actions near Cheney prompt arrest - June 16, 2006

BEAVER CREEK A man was arrested by Secret Service agents when he tried to approach Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek Village yesterday afternoon, said Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren.

Cheney was walking outside when the agents charged with protecting him noticed the man, identified as Steven Howards, who wasnt acting like the other folks in the area, Zahren said.

His behavior and demeanor wasnt quite right, Zahren said. The agents tried to question him, and he was argumentative and combative

Authorities did not describe Howards behavior in any further detail.

While Howards was released later in the evening, officials are reviewing possible federal charges. His age and hometown were not listed. There was no phone number listed for him in the local phone book.

-----

Secret Service quiet about man arrested near Cheney - June 19, 2006

BEAVER CREEK - The U.S. Secret Service is offering no details about the arrest of Steven Howards, who they allege acted strangely around Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday during an economic summit in Beaver Creek.

"His behavior and demeanor wasn't quite right," Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said on Friday. "The agents tried to question him, and he was argumentative and combative." On Monday, another spokesman for the Secret Service refused to say what "wasn't quite right" about Howards' demeanor and whether federal charges were brought against Howards. "No further comment," said the spokesman, Jonathan Cherry.

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Man sues over Cheney confrontation - Oct 4, 2006

District Attorney Mark Hurlbert dismissed the charges about a month later because Cheney didn't want to pursue the charge and the attorney's office couldn't prove Howards touched the vice president.

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Cheney critic sues agent over arrest - Oct 4, 2006

"We filed a motion to dismiss the charge because we didn't think we could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt because we had gotten word that the vice president did not wish to prosecute Howards," Hurlbert said Monday. "Originally, he was going to be charged with assault because the information we got from Secret Service was that he had pushed the vice president. We learned later that it had been only verbal."

Time for VP Cheney to press federal charges against Mr. Howards, and this time to keep him in jail and create a felony record so he's stained for the rest of his life. Imagine the nerve, making a public disagreement with a public official. He doesn't appear to know his place.

The CATO Institute weighed in at about the same time, "Reprehensible" Is Right.


January 19

Turns out that Canadian "US might torture" suggestion is in a training manual that is filled with hypotheticals. Or so says Canada.

Canada Manual: US Prisoners Face Torture - Rob Gillies (AP)

"It is not a policy document or any kind of a statement of policy. As such it does not convey the government's views or positions," said Neil Hrab, a spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department.

"The training manual purposely raised public issues to stimulate discussion and debate in the classroom."

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