Thursday, May 01, 2008

Senate Hay in May

Pending: H.R.2881 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007. Until yesterday, the base bill was substitute amendment #4585. Yesterday, that was withdrawn, replaced by substitute amendment #4627, and further amending was put under the throttled condition produced by "filling the amendment tree."

Predictably, the DEMs and Republicans are at each others throats over the parliamentary process. But the wrangling is merely typical, and over what extraneous material will be debated in the context of FAA reauthorization, thresholds for consideration and passage, and so forth.

WH Statement of Policy on H.R.2881 (complaints and veto threat limited to provisions that legislate administrative prerogative as to employment and air traffic routing rules).

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"We need the farm bill for 'stability'" (so farmers can decide what is most economically attractive, etc.) meets reality. Net result? Closer micromanagement by Congress.

"Congress' ethanol affair is cooling" by Stephen Dinan (WaTimes)

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Democrats will use the pending farm bill to reduce the subsidy, while Republicans are looking to go further, rolling back government rules passed just four months ago that require blending ethanol into gasoline.

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Senator Reid, on Tuesday ...

  • the farm bill that is completed, basically, I understand. We are going to have to go to that soon because it expires the end of this week [extended two weeks]
  • the Consumer Products Safety Conference. That should be completed hopefully by the end of next week.
  • the budget, our budget that we have to complete. Fortunately, on that, we have a statutory time to work toward its conclusion.
  • Whether we want it, there is going to have to be a discussion about fuel prices, what is going on. That is the No. 1 issue facing America today. It is more important now than the housing market [fickle, fickle ... and what about food prices?]
  • the House is going to pass, next week, the supplemental appropriations bill dealing with the funding of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

FISA will creep in somewhere (it can be attached to anything, or it can be brought up as an independent measure), but it's not likely to come up in the Senate under H.R.3773, passed by the House in November 2007, modified and passed by the Senate on February 12, sent back to the House the next day, further modified then passed by the House on March 14 and received in the Senate on March 31 (recess intervened).

"Blue Dogs on Hoyer’s FISA leash" (The Hill).

The significant bone of contention is the same; whether or not the statute that provides for a civil remedy (e.g., federal court review if the government undertakes surveillance in contravention of the statute) will obtain a "one time" and retroactive Congressional exception.

Where is the call for repeal of the civil remedy? Those advocating the exception argue that access to courts can disclose important secrets, resulting in terrorist attacks. Calling for a one time "get out of court free" in order to prevent disclosure of secrets, while ignoring exactly the same risk for the future, is inconsistent.

----- 09:40 -----

Rather than touch on Senate business, Senator Reid goes off on a riff about the "Mission Accomplished" banner dedicated to the troops on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. Maybe he's leading into an argument against funding via supplemental or other appropriations, but I doubt it.

10:45: Senator Reid on FAA reauthorization, blames the GOP for obstructing progress on legislating. The so-called "Durbin" amendment was co-sponsored by Hutchison and Cornyn, which makes me wonder which influential Senators are hiding their responsibility (and rationales) for holding up debate.

The provisions that Reid thinks are the targets of obstruction are:

  • Passenger rail
  • Highway trust fund

Clues:

CQ Today - House Passes FAA Reauthorization Bill - Sept 20, 2007

The late-afternoon Finance markup was derailed, however, when an unnamed senator invoked an often-waived Senate rule that prevents committees from meeting after the chamber has been in session for two hours. The rule is typically waived each day by unanimous consent.

The rule was invoked when it became clear that Trent Lott, R-Miss., planned to offer an amendment in Finance that would authorize some $2 billion in bonding authority for Amtrak.

Lott’s proposed amendment was itself a reaction to plans by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to offer his own amendment that would authorize certain railroad funding for New York.

And at 11:10 a.m. today, Senator Gregg notes a 1.6 billion dollar "earmark" item for train transport relating to Kennedy Airport, that he is opposed to.

12:16 - Preparing a test of the proposition that a full amendment tree prevents further amendment, Senator Rockefeller has Amendment #4642 "at the desk," but stopped just short of asking UC to make it pending. [This ends up a "do nothing" amendment that corrects an error in one of the tree-filling "do nothing" amendments]

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A new Gang of 14, announced by Senator Wyden. Seven DEMs and seven GOP have banded together and will guarantee quality, affordable, universal health care for all Americans. The program is so good that not only will it provide health care without taxes, it will eventually increase tax revenues and reduce the budget deficit.

I'll have some of what that gang is smoking. Obviously, it kills pain.

Healthy Americans Act (S.334) looks like a "revival," not new. From December 15, 2006 at the Health Care Blog: "Wyden's Health Care Plan"

The bill is a replacement of employer-based health care with the purchase of individual insurance via regional pools ...

Involved Senators: Bennett, Alexander, Grassley, Crapo, Landrieu, Nelson (FL), Lieberman, Gregg, Inouye, Corker, Stabenow, Coleman and Carper. Senator Wyden's Press Release from today, CBO and Joint Tax Find Healthy Americans Act Would Lead to Surpluses after 2014.

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13:05: The farm bill extension, S.2954, was taken up and passed on UC.

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13:23: Senator Schumer defends the "Liberty Zone" provisions in the FAA reauthorization bill; indicates that the provisions make no mention of rail transportation relating to Kennedy Airport; and describes the provisions as the partial fulfillment of a promise made by President Bush, to take care of the NYC area as it recovers from the 9/11 attack.

18:50: Senator Reid bemoans the lack of debate and progress on FAA reauthorization, and blames the Republicans for stalling. He says he offered "taking down the tree" and removing language from the bill on railway and highways; only to be turned down. He concludes that what the Republicans object to is the money for NY (the subject of the Schumer/Gregg arguments), that was in the WH budget - so he suggested that the GOP offer an amendment to strike that provision. This was not agreeable either.

Senator Reid files a cloture motion to limit debate on substitute amendment #4627, and a second cloture motion on the underlying bill, H.R.2881. He schedules the cloture vote on the substitute amendment for 2:30 p.m. next Tuesday.

19:03: Senator Cantwell begins the process of closing the Senate for the day. Passing H.R.3542, H.Con.Res.340 (technical corrections to H.R.493), H.Con.Res.112, S.Res.494 as amended, S.Res.534, S.Res.544, S.Res.545, S.Res.546, and S.Res.547. She segues into the gas price issue, and promises vigilant review of oil company pricing - particularly the oil futures, which are now set at $100 per barrel for the next several years. She indicates objection to drilling in ANWR because it is a wildlife, but even if it wasn't, tapping that supply wouldn't help.

She's mystified as to precisely why today's dollar won't buy as much gasoline as last year's dollar -- but she is quite sure it's the result of price manipulation. No accounting for WORLDWIDE demand, or price setting by OPEC.

At any rate, her proposed solution is regulation of the oil futures market, and she notes the $1,000,000 a day civil penalties for market manipulation violations, passed in December 2007. Congress is waiting for the FTC to write the rules and regulations, and to enforce them against energy companies. The rules were issued today, for public comment.

She cites a recent case, Amaranth, as an example of market manipulation. An interesting case to use as an example, as Amaranth was a paper trader of natural gas, and is being penalized for manipulating the price LOWER. See Energy Speculation: Is Greater Regulation Necessary to Stop Price Manipulation? - Testimony of the Honorable Joseph T. Kelliher, Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, December 12, 2007. More at this Wikipedia entry and Amaranth Autopsy: The Views of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Excessive Speculation in the Natural Gas Market and FERC Presents Natural Gas Market Manipulation Claims Against Amaranth. The last two links are particularly informative (and rich jumping off points for further research).

Great blog for energy-related research, www.knowledgeproblem.com, this guy seems as cynical as I am, when it comes to opining on the Senate's (and government's) value in life.

19:33: The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. No votes tomorrow or Monday. Weekend!


May 2

Senator Cantwell reiterated her charge relating to Amaranth manipulating the natural gas market, then jumps to the utterly false conclusion that the price of natural gas dropped 38% because of Amaranth dropping out of the natural gas speculation market.

The interesting thing is, when they got out of the market and there was the pursuit by the Federal Regulatory Commission of this issue, natural gas prices dropped 38 percent--38 percent because we had a bad actor out of the marketplace.

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H/T HowAppealing for links to news on the judicial confirmation front. The short version is that the Democrats are on track to confirm three Circuit Court nominees of their choosing.

More comments on the subject of judicial confirmations following this post at confirmthem.com.

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12:18: Senator Reid files a cloture motion on a motion to proceed to S.2284 - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007, setting it up to be the business of the Senate following disposition (passage or dropping) of the FAA reauthorization bill, likely via outcome of the cloture vote to limit debate on the substitute amendment.

The Senate took up and passed H.R.5919 and S.Res.549.

Read the first time:
S.2972 - FAA Reauthorization, and
S.2973 - A Republican-sponsored energy bill (see also S.2958).

At 12:30, the Senate was adjourned until 10:00 a.m. Tuesday. Monday will be an intervening day, for purposes of taking a vote on the cloture motion on the motion to proceed to the Flood Insurance bill.


May 3

Mr. REID: We will have a vote on cloture on the [Aviation] bill on Tuesday. My Republican colleague, my friend Senator McConnell, has said: You are wasting your time. We are all going to vote to block this bill.


May 5

Dueling Press Releases on the subject of energy and energy legislation.

Summary of the American Energy Production Act - S.2958
Domenici, GOP Senators Seek EIA Analysis of Production Bill
Straight Talk on Energy Prices [Democrats']


May 6

10:20: GOP will complain about the pace of judicial nominations. Senator Specter leads the charge, Senator Cornyn and probably Hatch will chime in. I doubt there will be any "news" in the talk, just carping about the "order" of taking up nominations. The GOP didn't raise this complaint when IT was stalling votes on President Bush's nominees, so the complaint about "take up the older nominations first" rings hollow now.

It will be ironic if the GOP votes against White, on account of the nomination not being taken "in regular order."

"The disintegration of the Senate as the world's greatest deliberative body." Specter talks about the practice of using objection (silent filibuster) rather than debate and vote, as a means of obtaining a result. Then he cites Senator Reid as holding the record for number of times of "filling the tree" to cut off amending. Reid has done this ten times. Mitchell, Lott and Frist are tied in second place, with nine. He has a proposed rules change, that will remove the tarnish from the Senate's reputation. ROTFL. They don't follow the rules now!

From comments at "Three Cheers for Bernard Amyot" (at confirmthem.com) ...

The R's are not willing to fight and the Dems know it. ... As to COA nominees after Memorial Day, the R's on the SJC can turn out the lights...it's over for 2008.

Time will tell. I tend to agree. Maximum of five additional Circuit Court confirmations this year.

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11:27: Senator Rockefeller says last week was the most frustrating week he's had in 25 years of "service" in the Senate. More frustrating than FISA being held up?

Cloture vote coming at 2:30 this afternoon. Perhaps he "knows" cloture won't obtain the 60 votes needed to move past the objection of a single senator or block of senators. Heh ... I think that's a good word for "more than one." Flock of geese, pack of wolves, herd of cattle, mob of meerkats, block of senators.

14:27: Senator McConnell propounds a UC request to take up and pass S.2972, an alternative FAA bill. Senator Rockefeller proposes this is okay if his amendments are adopted. Dueling objections. Senator Durbin asks rhetorically about "motion to strike." There is no such thing, except through the amendment process, which is throttled by a full amendment tree. The cloture vote to limit debate on the substitute amendment started at 14:32.

14:55: The cloture motion to limit debate on substitute amendment #4627 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2007 (See also H.R.2881), was REJECTED on a 49-42 vote. (predicted 3:00 p.m. conclusion and 56-40 result) Senator Reid crossed over so he could enter a motion to reconsider. The cloture motion on the underlying FAA bill (H.R.2881) was withdrawn by UC.

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14:57 Voting begins on the cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.2284 - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007.

15:18: The cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.2284 - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007, was PASSED on a 90-1 vote. (Senator Coburn) (predicted 3:11 p.m. conclusion and 91-0 result)

The time limit for debate following cloture is 30 hours, then the Senate moves to a vote on the underlying point, which in this case is a motion to proceed to the flood insurance bill. Senator Dodd says he'd like to get straight to the bill, tomorrow morning. Typically, the bill IS brought up -- immediately -- upon a lopsided cloture vote on a motion to proceed.

17:00: Senator Cochran talking, and the voice sounds just like Mr. Haney of Green Acres.

19:05: Senator Reid recapitulating the demise of the FAA reauthorization bill, asserting that it was the result of the "Liberty Zone" dispute. Then he moans about the delay in moving to the flood insurance bill - "People are waiting to offer amendments." "How can Republicans sleep at night?" He's going to ask consent to move to the flood insurance bill in the morning, but if objectors insist on the 30 hours of post cloture debate provided in the rules, the bill won't be brought up until 9 p.m. tomorrow. Given the time wasted, he threatens working the weekend, if necessary, to conclude legislation on the flood insurance bill this week. He figures he'll need to file a cloture motion to limit debate on the bill.

19:12: The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.


May 7

"Inside intrigue" -- Special+Counsel+Scott+Bloch:
@google
@blawgsearch.justia.com

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A small bit of juggling of FEC nominations. The contentious nomination of Hans von Spakovsky is not involved.

Withdrawn: David M.Mason for a term expiring April 30, 2009; Robert D. Lenhard, for a term expiring April 30, 2011.
Nominated: Donald F. McGahn for a term expiring April 30, 2009 (replaces Mason); Cynthia L Bauerly for a term expiring April 30, 2011 (replaces Lenhard); and Caroline C. Hunter for a term expiring April 30, 2013.

News reports and speculation don't account for Senator McConnell's insistence that all the pending nominees obtain a vote en bloc, rather than admitting votes on pairs of nominees. The en bloc insistence is the show-stopper.

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Mr. REID ... But we are going to make a decision sometime tomorrow as to when we file cloture, whether we do it Thursday and have a Saturday cloture vote, do it tomorrow and have a Friday cloture vote. We are going to finish this [flood insurance] bill this week.

Assuming the cloture motion to limit debate on the bill passes on Friday, that starts a 30 hour post-cloture clock before the vote on the bill. But objectors won't make the Senate stay on weekends, and that 30 hour "debate time" will be cut short by unanimous consent.

Mr. DODD ... The substitute amendment contains the flood insurance reform package exactly as was passed by the committee as well as a bill to establish a Commission on Natural Catastrophe Risk Management and Insurance.

The base bill is in the form of a substitute amendment, Dodd/Shelby S.Amdt.4707.

--- 09:35 ---

No remarks from leadership on the schedule. An hour of morning business.

10:10: President Bush remarks on exiting a meeting with Congressional leaders indicate priorities on Colombian Free Trade Agreement and FISA, as well as objection to parts of the Housing Bailout bill.

Senators McConnell and Bond take the direction, and amplify the Colombian charges from the floor of the Senate. Senator Cornyn piles on, and extends his remarks to include FISA. The point is to blame and pressure the House Democratic leadership, Speaker Pelosi specifically.

11:15: Senator Dodd up, noting that there has not been unanimous agreement to proceed immediately to the flood insurance bill -- half an hour ago there was (apparently) a colloquy indicating general agreement to proceed forthwith.

11:30: And, indeed, there was. Senators Dodd and Carper exchange chit chat and there is an indication that the bill can be made pending, and the amendment process started.

11:45: The agreement must have a time certain associated with it, as the flood insurance bill isn't yet pending. Senator Hatch is introducing (merely talking up) S.2313 - Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance Act (STAAR Act), which was also introduced by Senator Brown, on November 6, 2007.

12:04: Senator Wicker describes his amendment #4719, which adds a multiple peril option (wind particularly) to the Federal Flood Insurance program. Still no actual advancing of the bill through the legislative process, but it looks to be on a track to pass tomorrow afternoon so the weekend can start before Friday morning.

12:13: Senator McConnell files amendment #4720, and a cloture motion to limit debate on that amendment. The amendment is to permit oil exploration and production in ANWR. Senator Allard files second degree amendment #4721 to #4720, cutting off the ability of the DEMs to amend the ANWR amendment.

I take back my prediction that the flood insurance bill is on track for passage tomorrow afternoon. If taken in regular order, the cloture motion to limit debate on the McConnell ANWR amendment will occur Friday morning.

12:38: Senator Dodd is upset at the presence of the ANWR amendment. He thinks it compromises passage of the flood insurance bill. [Scheduled] recess until 14:15 or so.

14:50: Senator Dodd is aiming for a stack of three votes, starting at 3:15 p.m. today. The three votes are on two Vitter amendments, and Wicker's #4719. I believe all three amendments are in relation to providing insurance coverage for events other than "flood," under the umbrella of Federal "Flood" Insurance.

Senator Landrieu observes that even though they are paying out against the Katrina disaster, insurance companies are making record profits, but no Senator is calling for price controls or windfall profits tax on the insurance companies.

18:03: Voting begins on Wicker S.Amdt.4719.

18:25: Wicker S.Amdt.4719 - to add a multiple peril option to the Federal Flood Insurance program, was REJECTED on a 19-73 vote. (predicted 18:28 conclusion and 40-55 rejection)

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Senator Reid says that he and McConnell have negotiated measures that can result in completing the Flood Insurance bill tomorrow. Friday would be a day off. The energy/ANWR "amendment" will be brought up Monday, as one half of a pair of side-by-side measures (free-standing, not part of the flood insurance bill), each of which would take 60 votes to pass.

Following that, a somewhat contentious (a cloture motion is involved) bill by Senator Gregg relating to firefighters. [IAFF’s national collective bargaining bill - see this "Collective Bargaining Information Page" for more].

The Supplemental Appropriations bill was expected early next week, but it's not moving smoothly through the House. The Farm Bill Conference Report is expected to be available for a vote next week.

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18:47: Vitter S.Amdt.4722 - to increase coverage limits available under the Federal Flood Insurance program, was REJECTED on a 27-66 vote. (predicted 18:50 conclusion and 50-41 passage)

19:03: Vitter S.Amdt.4723 - to increase the transition to higher premiums on being reclassified into a more risky flood plain, from two years to five years, was REJECTED on a 23-69 vote. (predicted 19:07 conclusion and 30-63 rejection)

19:23: Landrieu S.Amdt.4705 (as twice modified) - to exempt some properties behind some dikes, dams and levees from being designated flood plain, was REJECTED on a 30-62 vote. (predicted 19:20 conclusion and 20-72 rejection)

Voting's over for the day. Almost weekend!

Nelson (FL) calls up #4709. It somehow addresses a loss of 50 billion dollars for a major natural disaster, be it hurricane, earthquake or other.

21:00: Senator Dodd closed up for the night.

Noteworthy for its title: S.Con.Res.72 - The International Year of Sanitation.

S.2991 read the first time - Democrats' energy bill, to hold oil company's accountable, etc. I speculate that this will be the counterpart to the GOP bill to authorize exploration and production in ANWR.

After complaining about President Bush's veto threat on the Housing Bailout bill (WH Policy Statements: on H.R.3221 -- on H.R.5818), Senator Dodd moved the Senate stand adjourned until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.


May 8

Comments as I read President Bush's May 7 Speech to the Council of the Americas:

I committed my administration to the Merida Initiative. It's a partnership, a cooperative partnership with Mexico and Central America that will help them deal with the scourge of these unbelievably wealthy and unbelievably violent drug kingpins. And I want to work with Congress to make sure that, one, they fully pass our request in the upcoming supplemental debate ... when Congress passes our supplemental request, they also got to make sure that they implement the strategy we proposed in full.

This is the first I've heard of "the Merida Initiative."

Senate Report 110-35 Dec 21, 2007 (highly favorable view)
US State Department - April 8, 2008
Collection of "anti-Merida-Initiative" material
The Washington Office on Latin America

It's unpopular on "the right," where it is generally viewed as paying to secure Mexico's southern border, before securing the southern border of the United States.

Last year as well, the Secretary and I announced a new partnership for Latin America youth, to help train thousands of young people in the Americas with their English, and to provide opportunity to study here in the United States. And the reason why is simple: We want people in our neighborhood to have the skills necessary to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century.

This promotes trans-national mobility, which naturally results in population migration to more desirable (higher standard of living, more natural resources) nations. Teaching Mexicans in Mexico to speak English, while maintaining a mandatory dual language regime in the United States.

Today almost all of Colombia's exports enter the United States duty-free. Yet American products exported to Colombia face tariffs of up to 35 percent for non-agricultural goods, and much higher for many agricultural products. Think about that. They export into the United States duty-free, and we don't have the same advantage. I would call that a one-sided economic agreement.

Failure to pass the free trade agreement, therefore, is making it much harder to sell our products into Colombia.

It strikes me as very odd, that it would take action by a US Congress to reduce tariffs set by the Colombian government. Colombia could, if it wanted to, unilaterally drop its tariffs - and Congress could, if it objected to the imbalance in tariffs, impose tariffs on the importation of Colombian goods. I have scant clue as to which US industries would substantially benefit from the elimination of tariffs imposed by the Colombian government.

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The consent agreement on dueling energy proposals (GOP to open exploration and production in ANWR, Democrats to offer an alternative) has voting occurring in the context of the flood insurance bill, not as stand-alone propositions.

  • all amendments to S.2284 must be offered on Thursday, May 8
  • only amendments in order on Monday, May 12 ...
    • the pending substitute amendment
    • a managers' amendment if cleared by the managers and Leaders
    • McConnell Amdt. 4720
    • Allard Amdt. 4721 - to be withdrawn prior voting on #4720
    • A Reid amendment on the subject of energy
  • McConnell and Reid amendments have a 60 vote threshold
  • vote on McConnell #4720 at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 12
  • ... followed by a vote on the Reid amendment
  • the substitute amendment be agreed to
  • vote on passage of S.2284, as amended

A Separate agreement recites, "cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R.980, an act to provide collective bargaining rights for public safety officers employed by States or their political subdivisions, occur on Monday, May 12, 2008, upon the disposition of a flood insurance bill, either H.R. 3121 or S. 2284."

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Text of GOP Energy Amendments

Rather comprehensive, including a 180 day moratorium on purchase of fuel for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, investment in R&D for battery technology, and continued investment in biofuels and coal-to-liquid technologies.

Text of DEM Energy Bill (S.2991)

This embodies fairly radical modifications of income tax treatment. Might as well nationalize the oil industry. And this line, in findings ...

Congress must take urgent action to protect consumers, workers, and businesses of the United States from rampant speculation in the energy markets and the price increases resulting from the failed domestic and foreign policies of the President.

... is just another go-around of the blame game. What about the failed policies of Congress? On the whole, the proposal is arrogant, wrongheaded, and typical of the socialist control-freaks in the Democratic party. Let's just nationalize the entire economy, and all will be roses.

This is funny. The Democratic proposal includes Senator Specter's NOPEC scheme.

Not that any of the details matter -- both amendments are supposed to fail, so each political party can continue to blame the other, regardless of what happens. The prime directive is RE-ELECTION!

--- 09:40 ---

Dueling speeches on the dueling energy policy charades. Nothing new in the contentions, and the contentions aren't even expressed with more emphasis or more emotion this time around. Maybe it's time to invest in a federal acting school for politicians.

12:27: The motion to waive Senator Coburn's budget point of order against the substitute amendment, was PASSED on a 70-26 vote. (predicted 12:35 conclusion and 85-5 passage)

Just to reiterate, waiving the rules that Senator Coburn based his objection on is a rejection of his point of view, and is making an exception to the PAYGO rule that all Senators promote, but only when it suits their objective.

14:00: Senator Gregg in the midst of talking about the "progress" on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill (the traditional war emergency bill that's been promulgated year after year); and the amendments that he'd be offering during Senate markup. First, that the African National Congress has been designated (and still is designated) as a terrorist organization, and this forces Nelson Mandela to obtain clearance before entering the US. Congress picks and chooses the bureaucratic messes that merit meddling -- but you just know that for each mess it "fixes," there are a few [thousand] that ought to be fixed, that aren't.

16:00: Senator Dodd recited an alteration to the UC agreement that provided for votes on the energy amendments. Now, instead of Monday, those votes will occur on Tuesday, following an hour of debate.

Further, the post-cloture time relating to the motion to proceed to the firefighter's collective bargaining bill will be deemed expired, in the event cloture is obtained.

16:16: Durbin S.Amdt.4715 - to require completion of flood plain maps before adjusting insurance requirements for property in the St. Louis District of the Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps of Engineers, was PASSED (as modified) on a 68-24 vote. (predicted 16:25 conclusion and 55-35 passage)

That's the last vote until Tuesday. Expect adjournment early this evening, for the weekend.

17:40: Senator Klobuchar shutting down the Senate, the typical several Senate Resolutions and non-contentious [from the Senate's point of view] matters being handled.

17:42: Adjourned until 2:00 p.m. Monday. Votes to begin no sooner than 11:00 a.m. Tuesday.

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H/T Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO for linking to a fun article about Senator Grassley's exploration of the finances of half a dozen prosperity gospel churches. Grassley is entertaining when he gets cranky.


May 9

H/T SCOTUSblog for details of action in two different detainee cases, Bismullah, and Khadr.

New review for Bismullah

I'm wondering if this case will end up deliberately mooted, so as to preclude a SCOTUS ruling on the underlying legal issue (adequacy of evidence presented to DC Circuit for its review of a CSRT). The administration mooted a SCOTUS ruling on the law in the Padilla case, and may decide the it's better to turn Bismullah loose than risk a loss in Court.

Khadr case complexity deepens

I think the "child soldier" defense ought to fail for a 15 year old, and I'll be surprised if Canada insists on extradition.


May 13

The Senate is getting around to the energy votes it set up last week. Senator Reid opened with a complaint "about filibusters," and asserts that the public knows what is going on, presumably referring to the use of parliamentary tactics to manipulate the legislative process.

Reid amendment #4737 was brought to the floor less than 3 minutes before voting began on the dueling amendments, at 11:30 a.m.

Senator Clinton is in the Senate today.

11:48: McConnell S.Amdt.4720 - GOP proposed energy measures (e.g., drilling in ANWR, coastlines), was REJECTED on a 42-56 vote. 60 votes needed to pass (predicted 11:50 conclusion and 55-40 rejection)
GOP NAY Votes: Coleman, Collins, Dole, Martinez, Smith, and Snowe

12:05: Reid S.Amdt.4737 (text of S.2911 linked) - DEM proposed energy measures (e.g., tax oil companies), was PASSED on a 97-1 vote. 60 votes needed to pass (Allard cast the NAY vote) (predicted 12:06 conclusion and 55-40 rejection)

The proffered amendment #4737 must be radically different from S.2911. Too bad we can't see the amendment just yet - my guess is that it contains one provision, that being to suspend contributions to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (while oil is > $75 a barrel), a measure that was also in GOP-proposed amendment #4720.

In light of being passed by a near-unanimous margin, Senator Reid proposed that the amendment be presented to the Senate as a stand-alone bill and be passed. The GOP objected (Domenici).

Senator Reid obtained UC that the flood insurance bill, if and when passed, be moved to the House in the vehicle of H.R.3121.

12:23: S.2284 - Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007, was PASSED (as H.R.3121) on a 92-6 vote. (Oops - overlooked this one - predicted 12:25 conclusion and 75-18 passage)
NAY Votes: Coburn, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson (FL), Pryor and Vitter

12:39: Cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R.980, an act to provide collective bargaining rights for public safety officers employed by States or their political subdivisions, was PASSED on a 69-29 vote. (predicted 12:25 conclusion and 80-15 passage)

S.Amdt.4751 is sent to the desk as a substitute. Debate to begin after recess.


May 14

Senate will convene at 9:30 to resume consideration of a proposed Collective Bargaining bill, H.R.980 but as expressed in substitute amendment #4751.

The GOP argument that relies on "hypocrisy" (the federal government is hypocritical because it doesn't have collective bargaining for employees of Congress) is pretty thin. The vast majority of federal workers are unionized. That being said, I think this is a bad proposal.

09:40: Senator Reid hints that he wants to keep the collective bargaining legislation clean; that is, to avoid amendments on extraneous issues. He notes the difficult process involved in negotiating "the farm bill" though Congress. Other actions this week: handle the farm bill conference report; name conferees for the budget; and media cross-ownership legislation.

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H/T HowAppealing for a collection of links on the Pentagon dismissing charges against a GTMO detainee. A very thick plot, indeed.

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C-SPAN2 announcer commenting on an amendment offered by Senator Graham, on behalf of Senator McCain, relating to extending veteran's benefits. Obviously (based on the extended quorum call to negotiate moving forward), the DEMs don't want to handle this amendment -- at least not on the "usual" terms of debate for a reasonable amount of time then and pass or reject the proposed amendment on a simple majority vote.

14:50: Senator Reid announces he will move to table the Graham/McCain amendment (a nuclear action - the motion is not debatable, and on majority vote, kills the matter). At 14:51 he made the motion, called for a roll call vote, and the roll call vote got underway.

15:16: The Graham/McCain amendment was TABLED on a 55-42 vote. (The usual crossovers - Hagel, Smith, etc. for the GOP)

15:30: Senator McConnell indicates that the GOP would like to vote on some amendments, in particular those that are offered by Senator Enzi. Senator Kennedy indicates that the GOP has objected to amendments offered by the DEMs -- clearly there is plenty of backroom planning for the public choreography. The only thing agreed to is an hour of debate, to be followed by quorum call.

18:00: Senator Enzi describing why he'll vote against cloture on the bill (I assume he is referring to the collective bargaining bill, but I'm not sure).

Conference report on "the farm bill" H.R.2419 is up. Better hustle, the weekend is almost here!

19:10: Senator Gregg rhetorically wondering where the economic planners of the Soviet Union went at the end of the cold war. He concludes, tongue-in-cheek, that they are now working as agriculture industry planners in the United States -- "the farm bill," opines he, gives too little consideration to market forces.

Just before that, Senator Reid roughly outlined action through next week. The media cross-ownership bill has a maximum of 10 hours allocated for debate, but could be done in considerably less, and is expected to be done tomorrow or, if things bog down, Friday. No votes on Monday. The bulk of next week will be on the $180 billion Emergency Supplemental, with at least three contentious matters being embedded in the bill to be sent over from the House.

19:30: Senator Gregg raises a budget point of order on the farm bill conference report, Senator Conrad moves to waive, and a roll call vote (60 votes to waive) will occur in the next days. Senator Conrad rebuts the charge that the US agricultural industry is managed by politicians, rather than by market forces. His argument is based on the "fact" that the cost of food in the US is lower than anywhere else in the world; and the lowest it has ever been, in the history of the world.


May 15

09:45: Senator Reid outlines the schedule for the day. 90 minutes of debate on the farm bill conference report, followed by votes on that conference report (waive budget act, passage).

Then the Senate will debate appointing conferees to the budget resolution, a matter that isn't often debated and voted on. There is a total of 10 hours allowed, and the Senate will stay in session today until Senate conferees are named.

He sees also a possibility to complete the media cross-ownership bill (S.J.Res.28, a joint resolution disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to broadcast media ownership) today, if not, then it will be taken up tomorrow. A UC agreement provides for 3 hours of debate.

Tomorrow, a cloture vote on the collective bargaining bill, (H.R.980 - WH "will veto") which got stuck on an impasse yesterday. I presume the timing of that is indefinite, as it is marching in parallel with the media cross-ownership bill.

Next week, H.R.2642 - the $180 billion dollar supplemental. That bill is known to be contentious. WH will veto, over the same old "foreign" issues of timing of pullback from Iraq, statutory troop rotation periods, and permitted interrogation techniques; and on account of a substantial amount of domestic spending.

Senator McConnell says he thinks the schedule is reasonable, but he has concerns about how the DEMs intend to process the emergency supplemental through the Senate, this being a comment relating to the possibility or scope/subject of Senate amendment.

11:55: The well-brought budget point of order against the conference report on H.R.2419 - "the farm bill," was WAIVED on a 74-19 vote. (60 votes needed to waive "the law.")

12:11: A Rule XLIV clause 8(a) point of order against the conference report on H.R.2419 - "the farm bill," was WAIVED on a 62-34 vote. (60 votes needed to waive "the rules.")

Senator Reid pats the Senate on the back for a grand performance in crafting "the farm bill."

12:37: The conference report on H.R.2419 - "the farm bill," was PASSED on a veto-proof 81-15 vote.

---===---

Senator Dodd sought UC for the Banking Committee to meet and conduct a markup on 400 page banking regulation bill. Senator Corker indicates he is "tempted" to object, because it isn't possible to review and obtain reasoned judgement in a short time, but he doesn't object.

Senator Dodd indicates the text of the bill has been available for a week (and I'm Peter Pan).

---===---

And then, on to debating instructions and naming of conferees for negotiating the budget resolution.

12:42: Senator Reid calls for an hour of morning business while the budget negotiators (Conrad and Gregg) iron out an order of procedure for appointment of conferees.

It funny (not in a "ha ha" sort of way) that the Senators are concerned about who sets the rules for legislating the budget, seeing as how they routinely waive whatever rules they set.

19:20: The Senate got its work done for the week, announces Senator Reid, there is one more roll call vote to be taken today, then no more until Tuesday. The vote is on a Gregg amendment to the budget resolution - to reduce the budget 1%, to keep it under one trillion dollars per year.

One trillion. It boggles the imagination. If one started a business at about the time of Christ, and that business lost one million dollars per day (not per week, or month, or year, but a million dollars a day), that business would be one trillion dollars in debt, 700 years from today.

A trillion. A million millions. A million days is about 2,738 years.

I missed the disposition or re-scheduling of the cloture motion to limit debate on H.R.980 - the collective bargaining bill. That vote would be taken tomorrow morning, if the Senate conducted business according to its rules.

19:34: The Gregg amendment on instructions to conferees for S.Con.Res.70 - the Congressional Budget Resolution, was REJECTED on a 47-48 vote.

---===---

Now the Senate will (voice) vote on S.J.Res.28 - on media ownership. A couple of Senators note opposition by name. Remarks will appear in the record, but not uttered from the floor of the Senate.

A fresh Policy Statement from the WH, on S.J.Res.28 - disapproving the rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission with respect to broadcast media ownership. Obviously, as the resolution directly undercuts a position taken by the administration, the administration has formally stated its intention to veto the resolution.

19:37: S.J.Res.28 was PASSED on a voice vote.

---===---

20:05: S.Res.568 - commemorating an anniversary of the National Governor's Association, was passed on a unanimous consent, interrupting a speech by Senator Brown.

20:09: Sentoar Durbin spewing again, saying that "filibusters haven't been abused until this session of the Senate." Utter BS - see unprecedented cloture abuse on judicial nominees, initiated and maintained by Democrats. The shoe is on the other foot now. Kwitcherbellyachin'

20:25: Closing minutia, passing non-contentious:
H.R.2356 - encourage display of the US flag on Father's day
S.3029 - an SBA act extension

20:27: Weekend! Adjourned until 2:00 p.m. Monday, no roll call votes until Tuesday morning.

2 Comments:

Blogger bmaz said...

Hey cboldt! where you been? Question - what the heck do you think is the skivvy procedurally with FISA; i.e. what do you think the clucks are up to behind the scenes? The talk of attaching it to the war supplemental etc. If you have any insights, would you drop a line at EW? Thanks.

5/01/2008 11:44 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

The procedural options are as ever. I'm not surprised to hear rumors of plans (some likely true), as that sort of chatter is common on many issues. The rumors may be intended to probe public sentiment -- as in throwing a stone and looking for a reaction.
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And, as ever, the procedural tack will reflect the determination of the two political parties and the two legislative chambers. On FISA, the Senate can be counted on to capitulate to (they'd say "overwhelmingly agree with") WH wishes for a statutory get-out-of-court card.
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There is always the option of a stand-alone new bill, originated in either chamber. Resurrection of an issue under a new bill number is surprisingly common - the MCA, DTA, FISA originale popped up as multiple bill numbers, and the currently stalled FAA Reauthorization has been reborn in three different forms in one week, each form appearing to originate in the Senate.
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A new bill could be anything, substantively, from an extension of the PAA into next year to giving the administration exactly what it's drafted for Congress. Come to think of it, this is true for an old bill, being changed via amendment.
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There is always the option of a new bill being attached to another bill or set of bills. This is also common, tucking an unpopular item on a "must pass" bill in order to get it past opposition. That went on when the GOP idiotically attached Estate Tax, AMT, minimum wage and "tax extenders" and insisted on handling as a unit. Fine, up to a point, but would have been smart to pass AMT stand-alone when it was clear the package wouldn't be passed by the end of the 108th Congress.
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That the open and shadow proponents of the administration's FISA wishes would attempt to attach FISA to another bill is expected. Attachment of unrelated material to a "must pass" bill is a sign of weak support and/or unpopularity -- unpopular to the legislators, which may or may not reflect public sentiment.
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There is very little in the public record about where the law of secret surveillance is headed in the near-term. FISA has been kept out of Congress and WH talk (I use a search function and regularly check for "FISA" in WH pressers and news, as well as in the Congressional Record), to the extent that the silent treatment has to be taken as deliberate. Let the issue drop out of sight to cool, and "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again" -or- "Strike while the iron is hot."
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See NOPEC, Reporter Shield, closing the Gun-show loophole, Law of the Sea Treaty, Totalization agreement with Mexico, and many other items that come up year after year after year.

5/02/2008 7:49 AM  

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