Monday, June 16, 2008

Groundhog Month (Again) - Then Recess (Again)

June 10: The first cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, was REJECTED on a 50-44 vote.
GOP Aye votes: Corker, Smith and Snowe

June 16

14:10: The redo cloture vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. this afternoon.

Senator Reid spoke on the subject of energy prices, and that the second income in their household only pays for fuel and food, and they are unable to save enough money to prepay their children's' college education. Of course, this is the president's fault.

If the country just follows Democratic lead on legislation, all these ills will be cured.

Senator McConnell spoke on the demise of Tim Russert.


Even UC agreements aren't worth the paper they're printed on ...

H.R. 6049 (ORDER NO. 767)

1.--Ordered, That upon the conclusion of Morning Business on Monday, June 16, 2008, the Senate resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 6049 ... that the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R. 6049 occur at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 16, 2008.

17:53: Senator Whitehouse closes the Senate. It stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

It will resume consideration of H.R.6049 with time until 12:30 being equally divided. The Senate will conduct the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R.6049 at 2:15 p.m.

In the wake of Boumediene, posted elsewhere on our form of government in general ...

-- Legislatures write laws and courts interpret the laws as written. --

Was Marbury v. Madison wrongly decided? At some point, and there is a wide range of opinion on exactly where this occurs, statute and constitution in fact diverge in a way that represents a conflict between the two -- both written.

"Common law" is an assertion by a court that it's entitled to make certain species of law out of its own accord. "Common law" is part and parcel of our form of government. Habeas is part of that.

While I find many SCOTUS decisions inimical to my sense of the way things ought to be, I recommend caution in cutting the third branch too short.


-- It [the Boumediene decision] has to be complied with unless and until it's overridden, either by constitutional amendment (which ain't gonna happen) or by a change in the membership of the Court (which might). --

Theoretically, and maybe even practically (depending on how much gumption Congress has - I'm not holding my breath) the Boumediene decision holds open the route of adequate [statutory] substitute for habeas.


-- a flood of habeas corpus petitions around the United States, with dozens of federal district judges then suddenly finding themselves obliged to undertake the creation and supervision of a system to resolve these detainees' fates. --

Disambiguate that a bit -- I'm reluctant to mount an argument one way or the other, other than to note Justice Kennedy's comment about the power of the courts to focus certain classes of cases as a matter of judicial efficiency.


-- I fully expect that, as part of that process, some who are genuinely guilty will nevertheless go free --

Any of the reverse?

I fully expect the courts to entertain ex parte in camera hearsay evidence.

Some seem to think the courts are adversarial as against the executive, and that's a conceptual step that I am not ready to take, in the realm of warmaking. Are the courts contrary? Of course, they just said "no." But there is a difference between disagreement and adversary.


-- Do you really think I'm "cutting the third branch too short" because I object to this Supreme Court decision? --

I think it's a mistake to view the Court as an adversary, if its demands can be reasonably accommodated.


-- I'm concerned that this decision is frustrating the ability of the President and Congress to conduct the war on terror when, historically, the court has exercised restraint regarding the war powers. --

Being held to account is always frustrating.

And there is always tension between "war" (no check on the warrior) and regular order.

I suggest a steely-eyed reflection of a world where Congress and the executive wage war with -NO- SCOTUS to temper the stew - that is the logical result of "SCOTUS has no business here, except to agree."


-- There's simply nothing in the Boumediene majority opinion which identifies as being "key" or "crucial" any particular differences between the process due to the detainees under the Military Commissions Act, and that which would be due to them were they citizens of the U.S. accused of crimes in our civilian courts. --

I predict that the District Courts will find substantial space between those two extremes.

The Courts could accept the procedures and conclusions of the CSRT, provided only the additional concession that the court be permitted to view the evidence in camera and ex parte.

IOW, I trust the District Courts to (in the lawyer-driven process) consider more "law" than is expressed in the Boumediene decision standing alone. The fact that the Boumediene decision is incomplete and therefor "uncertain" in details does not mean that the process of dealing with POW/criminal/wannabe as a whole is all unplowed ground.

C-SPAN 2 indicates that the House will be taking up FISA this week. That fits the rumors.

--- June 17 ---

10:12: Senator Reid asks UC to take up the House-passed Unemployment Compensation bill, H.R.5749, and pass it without debate. Senator Kyl objects, and says that the Senate needs to weigh in, and in particular, that the GOP objects to the waiving of the 20 week work requirement.

Senator Reid says the Democrats are willing to amend the bill accordingly. Senator Kyl says there are additional objections, and that the GOP is seeking opportunity to negotiate.

Senator Reid explains that the delay in the upcoming cloture vote is due to yesterday's harsh weather, and goes on to advocate the taking up and passing of "tax extender," his term for the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act.

14:27: Senator Leahy and Reid in a colloquy about judicial confirmations. Warming up to invoking what is referred to as the Thurmond Rule. I predict the brakes will be put on HARD, on Circuit Court confirmations, after a few more are confirmed.

Over at, "Spitting Into a Maryland Wind" contains comments and news on GOP objection to a Judiciary Committee Hearing on the subject of increasing the number of federal judgships to handle a steadily-increasing caseload.


14:50: The second cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, was REJECTED on a 52-44 vote. (predicted 54-39 rejection)
GOP Aye votes: Coleman, Collins, Corker, Smith, Snowe

Reid voted NO in order to enter a motion to reconsider. The result is better viewed as 53 AYE votes, still well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome objection to limiting debate.

Senator Reid calls for a brief recess in order to give the members of the Senate an opportunity to meet with the Japanese Prime Minister.


16:03: Senator Murray on the Boeing/Airbus competition again. The competition where the Air Force either granted or is poised to grant a tanker contract to Airbus.


17:10: Quorum call for the past hour. C-SPAN2 announcer reports that Senator Rockefeller says the Democratic caucuses of both the House and Senate have enough votes to pass a FISA overhaul that is agreeable to the administration (i.e., one that contains a "get out of court without asserting state secrets" card), over any objection.


17:47: Senator Leahy doing some of the "closing" activities. Passing a couple of non-contentious Senate resolutions; S.2146 was passed as amended by the House. At 17:51, the Senate adjourned until 10:00 a.m tomorrow. The Senate will resume the motion to proceed to H.R.6049, and will have two hours of morning business starting at 2:30 p.m.

June 18

[Jun 17] Senator LEAHY ... tomorrow, we expect to be in a position to turn to consideration of the House message to accompany H.R. 3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act. We will continue working with colleagues on a way to move forward on this important legislation.

The subject material of H.R.3221 has been bounced all over the place. The version "engrossed by the House" is American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008. I haven't studied the most recent House amendments, but the WH policy statement of May 6 (contemporaneous with House action) includes a veto threat.

Besides H.R.3221 and the motion to proceed to H.R.6049, I see only a few other items on the short term-horizon:

  • The House-passed Unemployment Compensation bill, H.R.5749
  • FISA (the House will introduce this - H.R.3773, now in the Senate, is probably dead)
  • Confirmation votes for judicial nominees now out of Committee

Noting an odd arrangement for the day, and mindful that the GOP has been cutting off committee hearings using "the two hour rule," I speculate that the Senate day is being arranged to prevent GOP objection to afternoon committee hearings. Rather than have morning business shortly after opening the legislative day, the Senate has scheduled two hours of morning business starting at 2:30 p.m. this afternoon.


12:00: Senator Murray on the subject of refueling tankers ... again.

14:30: Into morning business - a series of screeches by the Democratic women senators under the banner "Checklist for Change," lead off by Senator Mikulski, followed by Senator McCaskill. I can get on board with a program of oversight of government contracts.

17:01: Senator Reid scheduled the veto-override vote for "the farm bill" to occur at 5:30 p.m. today, following 15 minutes of debate. No news of other planned actions.

May 22: President Bush's veto of H.R.2419 - "the farm bill," was OVERRIDDEN on a 82-13 vote, one senator voted "present." (two-thirds of votes needed to override)

June 18: President Bush's veto of H.R.6124 - "the farm bill redeaux," was OVERRIDDEN on a 80-14 vote (two-thirds of votes needed to override)


"Boeing wins tanker protest, but drama is far from over" - Seattle Times

"We are vindicated and we're back in the game," said Sen. Patty Murray, who mounted a campaign of constant speeches on the Senate floor aimed at reversing the February contract award.


18:10: Senator Reid says this has been a difficult week, full of quorum calls and looking for something that the two political parties can work on. He thinks the Senate is ready to proceed to take up the Dodd-Shelby Housing Bill, starting at 9:30 tomorrow, with amendments and votes. The Senate will also work on Friday, but no votes on Monday.

He's planning to complete the Housing bill, "take a run at" FISA (a bill or message is expected from the House), and the supplemental appropriations bill in the short week, next week. These things must be done before the Fourth of July recess, so the Senators can be with their constituents for important parades and so forth.

Senator McConnell echos the schedule plans, and that the GOP will cooperate.

Senator Reid says that Mondays in July will not be "no vote days." And I am Mickey Mouse!


Senators Rockefeller, Grassley, Leahy, Harkin, Durbin and Reid conferencing. Senator Brown takes the floor to talk on the subject of the administration's economic dialog with China.

18:21: Senator Brown makes the connection that when the cost of doing business is high in one country (in particular speaking on environmental and gas emission regulations in the US), compared with other countries (e.g., China), some companies will close factories in the higher cost country and set up shop in the lower cost country. Brilliant. I wonder why nobody else has figured this out.


18:45: Senator Salazar shutting down the Senate for the night. H.Con.Res.337, S.Con.Res.91. He starts to say that the Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 a.m., and that it will then move the motion to proceed to H.R.6049 -- OOPS, that's not the right schedule -- quorum call. Gets the story straight and announces that tomorrow the Senate will take up the important Housing Bill and there will be votes, then adjourns the Senate at 18:49.


This is amazing. An affiliate of Blackwater arguing to be judged under Sharia law, for a negligence case flowing from a charter flight that it operated, that killed three US servicemen. This is brass balls!

McMahon v. Presidential - (second) Motion to Dismiss - Doc 145.

"U.S. company: crash lawsuit governed by Islamic law" -

To defend itself against a lawsuit by the widows of three American soldiers who died on one of its planes in Afghanistan, a sister company of the private military firm Blackwater has asked a federal court to decide the case using the Islamic law known as Sharia.

The same defendant, Presidential Airlines, lost its "we're the government, and are immune" argument before the 11th Circuit.

June 19

Senator Reid calls up H.R.3221 - A bill to provide needed housing reform and for other purposes, then turns the floor over to Senator Dodd to praise the guest chaplain, Reverend Roy.

And then Senate business reverts to the motion to proceed to H.R.6049 (which is turning into a wonderful do-nothing time filler), and enters a quorum call.

See House Report 110-622 for the contents of the "message from the house" that will be further amended, debated, and eventually ping-ponged back to the House.

10:25: Senator Reid moves to lay H.R.3221 before the Senate, with today's debate and amendment being limited to a Dodd/Shelby amendment. Senator DeMint asks if Senator Reid will allow the minority to debate a motion to recommit to committee with instructions to consider the impact of the bill on Countrywide. Senator Reid says the bill has been negotiated with the WH, that he is willing to sit down with DeMint to discuss concerns (he's not responsive, or better still, the answer is "NO," he will not commit to allowing that amendment). Senator DeMint says all he's asking for is the entire Senate to vote on the motion to recommit, at some point, not necessarily today, but at some point before the bill is completed. Senator Reid says he cannot make that assurance, and offers there may be other ways to make the political point.

Senator DeMint appreciates the concern, and will not object. Senator McConnell expresses thanks to Senator DeMint for not objecting. And the Senate commences debate on the Housing bill -- by resuming quorum call.


The House-proposed FISA bill is H.R.6304, no text available, and Democratic leadership plans to pass it tomorrow. That means it won't be taken up by the Senate until next week.

16:30: Text of proposed H.R.6304 from House Majority Leader site.

See my comment below relating to how a Senator can delay action by objecting to a motion to proceed, then objecting to voting on final passage. I speculate that Reid will move to proceed to the bill tomorrow, creating an opportunity for a cloture vote Tuesday next week, with that cloture vote being on the motion to proceed.


16:54: Bond amendment REJECTED 11-77, (one Senator voted "present")

Senator Dodd raises a PAYGO point of order against a second Bond amendment. The second Bond amendment fell as the motion to waive the point of order was REJECTED 21-69.


H.Res.1284 is the Rule under which the House will take up and pass H.R.2642 wartime Supplemental Appropriations, which has been increased at President Bush's request for disaster relief in the Midwest. The House has made further amendments ... this bill has ping-ponged between the chambers of Congress a couple of times, making the formal description of the votes a bit of a tongue-twister. "Move that the Senate concur in the House amendment to the Senate amendment to the bill" sort of thing.

H.Res.1285 is, I think, the Rule under which the House will pass H.R.6304 - the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.


17:29: Senator Bunning is permitted to move to recommit the bill to the Banking Committee (as Senator DeMint inquired about this morning - this is to investigate the benefit to Countrywide), under the following terms of debate and vote: 30 minutes of debate (starting NOW), with 60 votes required for passage. Senator DeMint joins in the debate to recommit.

17:40: Senator Shelby (R) is against the motion to recommit, asserting that the bill does not single out any lender or borrower, and the bill has been in the Banking Committee for years. He says that this bill is structured so as to be tax neutral - taxpayers will NOT bear the costs. I suspect he is cherry-picking ONE part of the bill from which to base that statement.

17:53: Senator Bunning points out that the 640 page bill that is now before the Senate is a substitute amendment that has NEVER been before the Banking Committee, and has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. It came to the floor of the Senate at 5:00 p.m. yesterday.

17:54: Senator Reed says any deviations between the Committee Bill and the substitute are probably small, and in any event, the substitute doesn't contain any provisions that single out favors for Countrywide.

18:01: Senator Reid "explains" why this bill isn't a bailout. The explanation stinks.

  • Lenders have to opt in - it's not mandatory
  • If they opt in, they will have to reduce the principle amount of the target loan (i.e., take a tax write off)
  • NO mention of the difference between the loss under this bill, vs. the loss without this bill

By Senator Reid's definition, the government didn't bailout Bear Stearns (or benefit JP Morgan Chase), either. Bear Stearns had to reduce their valuation in order to opt-in to the government's program, and JP Morgan had to pay more than it would have if Bear Stears had completely collapsed - no money from the taxpayer? Heh. Suckers!!

Senator Isakson announces he will vote "present" in order to avoid any taint that might attach should a question come up in a Senate ethics proceeding. He must have one or more of those Countrywide VIP loans too.

18:27: Senator Bunning's motion to refer is REJECTED 11-70 (I'd guessed 15-70) (five Senators voted "present").

That's the last vote for the night. No particular votes are scheduled for tomorrow, and some procedural hurdles may prevent votes at all tomorrow. So, debate will go on, but the path toward a vote on passage is a bit in the air at this point.

Senator Reid announces that there will be a vote Tuesday morning, before the 12:30 caucus meetings, but he does not specify what that vote will be. Could be on the Housing bailout, could be on a motion to proceed to FISA.

June 20

Couple of random thoughts.

On Obama, while it's true that as a Senator, his vote and influence is the same as any other Senator's, his influence on the bully pulpit is different from that of, say, Dodd, Feingold, or Leahy. Obama has considerably more power to rile the public on any issue. If Obama riled the public against the FISA bill, if he urged the public to speak out, to call Congress, etc., some Representatives and Senators would back away from the bill under the public push back.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you heard ANY candidate urged the public to contact Congress? Hmmm. Maybe they don’t want to hear from us. The last time the switchboard was plugged was on immigration.

The other random thought is on the possibility of Senate amendments. The GOP has been bitching about Reid's "filling the amendment tree," cutting off the right of senators to file amendments to bills. But on FISA, the proponents PREFER that the right to amendment be curtailed, if not cut off. If the right to make amendments is not curtailed or cut-off, a determined opponent (Dodd, Feingold, Leahy) has the absolute right to offer amendments, and can also delay passage of the bill in the context of that amendment. Object to voting on the amendment, object to 60 vote margin on the amendment without cloture, insist on 30 hours of post cloture debate before voting on the amendment, etc.

In an opposing alternative, Reid might well fill the amendment tree, cutting off the right of amendment. If he does so, he is acquiescing (different from agreeing) to the proponents of passing what the House did, without amendment.


Keeping with the "groundhog day" theme, Collection of links to FISA activity since December 2007.


09:10: President Bush gave a speech, carried by at least the cable newsies, praising Congress for its bipartisan action on Supplemental Appropriations and FISA, and calling for swift passage by both chambers of Congress.


09:45: Senator Reid opens with a speech that a substantial number of Americans are under foreclosure, diminishing housing values, and other economic difficulty, and this Senate bill will fix all that. He high-fives Senators Dodd and Shelby for their efforts.

He files a cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to concur in the amendment of the House on the Housing bailout bill. The cloture vote is to be one hour after the close of leader time on Tuesday, next week. The Senate is scheduled to open at 10:00 a.m., so that cloture vote is likely to occur around 11:30 or so.

Senator McConnell switches gears slightly, and points to energy prices - and wonders why Congress isn't using its magic power to fix that. He ribs Obama for saying that "energy prices don't concern him as much as the housing crisis." He also advocates for increasing domestic energy production, including (maybe even focusing on) fossil fuels. He also ribs the Democrat party for inaction on energy prices.

Senator McConnell also notes that he would like to move right now to confirm FEC nominees. He asks consent that the Senate proceed to that at a time to be determined later today, with the vote to en bloc (all (five) nominees in one vote). Senator Reid objects based on one DEM Senator needing to have one conversation with one nominee, and that this can't be promised to happen today. He agrees that a functioning FEC is important, but doesn't expect to be able to vote on the nominations until next week.

Senator McConnell will enter into the record an article that connects the DNC lawsuit pertaining to FEC inaction on its complaint on McCain's unilateral exit from public financing in the primary race. Interesting, My takeaway is that the GOP wants to prevent that suit from being heard in court.

09:55: Senator Reid steps in to defend the DEMs on the timing of FEC confirmation votes - he correctly notes that the GOP objected to voting on individual nominations, and recently insisted on full committee hearings even though the DEMs waived the need for those. Senator Reid has the better argument here (for a change), that the GOP is to blame for keeping the FEC out of quorum condition.

He also defends Obama - which I also think is appropriate in context. Senator McConnell could make his point about the relative priority (in the Senate) between energy and housing, without referring to Obama's out-of-chamber statements. OTOH, Senator Reid is wrong by blaming the GOP for failure to agree to take up legislation under conditions that don't admit debate and votes. He's adopted, as is his right, a strategy of offering mostly bills that are objectionable to the GOP (and withholding the right to amend), and then blaming the GOP for rejecting those offers.


12:36: After pro forma debate, the House is passing H.R.6304 by a wide margin. There is substantial support from the Democratic party, and unanimous support from the Republicans.

12:48: The margin for passage of the new and improved FISA bill was 293-129.

I was watching the House debate on FISA, and coming back to C-SPAN2, see this cherubic, deer-in-the-headlights Scott McClelland fellow. I assume that the Senate had the audacity to adjourn for the weekend while I wasn't watching.


H/T HowAppealing and ScotusBlog - Khadr's military commission trial will run without interference from an Article III Court. The effect of the Boumediene decision isn't expressly stated in the DC Circuit's unanimous decision, but the logic of the decision is such that the issue decided in Boumediene is irrelevant.

Link: Appeals court refuses to step into terrorism case

A small part of the "parade of horribles" touted by the hand-wringers critical of the Boumediene decision is closer to resolution. "The courts," given the opportunity, haven't interfered with the conduct of a military trial of a GTMO detainee. Not to say the courts will never look at the outcome of this military trial, but they aren't going to monkey with conducting it, and they don't appear to be extending "access to the federal court system in most essential respects ... as if they were lawful, taxpaying citizens."

One example ... "SCOTUS disgrace: Foreign terrorists captured abroad held to have same rights under U.S. Constitution as U.S. citizens"

The Supreme Court ruled today that terrorists who are citizens of foreign countries, who have never set foot within the United States, and who have systematically forfeited all the protections of the organized laws of warfare that would entitle them to be treated as prisoners of war, are, when captured on foreign battlefields by the U.S. military, nevertheless entitled to access to the federal court system of the United States — in most essential respects, exactly as if they were lawful, taxpaying citizens born here, raised here, and arrested here by the domestic police for alleged crimes committed here.


H/T NRO Online - BofA-Scripted Bank Bailout Looks Awfully Similar to Dodd-Drafted Housing Bill

That's our Congress! Is it pitchfork time, yet? Vero Possumus!!

June 21

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that when H.R. 6304 is received from the House, it be placed on the calendar.

There was no objection.

This is a departure from Senate Rule XIV, reflected in the routine "I ask the bill be read the first time," then, the next day, "I ask the bill be read for the second time," after which it is placed on the calendar.

2. Every bill and joint resolution shall receive three readings previous to its passage which readings on demand of any Senator shall be on three different legislative days, and the Presiding Officer shall give notice at each reading whether it be the first, second, or third:

There is a Bloomberg News Report that Senator Reid will allow an amendment to be brought up, that if passed, would strip Part II (the telecom immunity section) from the FISA bill. If he does, a determined objector can "filibuster" and delay passage by invoking three cloture widgets. One on the motion to proceed to the bill, one on the amendment, and one on final passage.

"I'm going to try real hard to have a separate vote on immunity," Reid said in an interview to be aired this weekend on Bloomberg Television's 'Political Capital with Al Hunt.' "Probably we can't take that out of the bill, but I'm going to try."

June 22



The DNC asked the court to:

  • Declare that the Commission’s alleged failure to act on the DNC’s administrative complaint is contrary to law; and
  • Enter an order finding that it would be futile to direct the Commission to comply with the law within 30 days and authorizing the plaintiffs to bring a civil action against the McCain campaign to remedy the Alleged violations.

Order to Show Cause

The Commission filed a statement with the court suggesting that the court had an independent obligation to determine whether the court had jurisdiction over the case.

On May 2, 2008, the District Court issued an Order to Show Cause, directing the DNC to explain why the court should not dismiss the DNC’s complaint for being filed before the 120-day period had expired. In response, the DNC argued that the 120-day rule does not prohibit the filing of a court complaint, but only prohibits the court from acting on a complaint within the first 120 days after an administrative complaint is filed. Additionally, the DNC argued that the 120-day jurisdictional limit should not apply because the Commission lacks a quorum to initiate an investigation.

Court Decision

On May 14, 2008, the District Court dismissed the DNC’s complaint without prejudice. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the plain text of the Act allows a party to file a petition with a court only after the expiration of the 120-day period. See 2 U.S.C. §437g(a)(a)(8)(A). The court also observed that the Commission could reach a quorum within the 120-day period.

Court Order denying DNC Motion for Declaratory Relief against the FEC

June 23

The Senate is to open at 3:00 p.m. for a no-vote session.

The week's events are mostly foregone conclusions, methinks. Action on these bills will "overlap," with cloture motions on some bills being filed while other bills are unfinished. The Senate can and does "multitask."

  • Pass H.R.3221 - Housing Lender Bailout, which will go back to the House. I predict cloture to limit debate on final passage to be obtained at roughly noon Tuesday. Final passage either Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Pass H.R.2642 - Supplemental Appropriations, without amendment, or with trivial amendments.
  • Pass H.R.6304 - FISA Revisions, without amendment (will be sent to President Bush for signature). There will be at most two votes with 60 vote margins for passage (and both votes will probably get 70+ support). One of those on either (but not both) the motion to proceed or on final passage - to provide evidence of the (token) objection by Dodd, Feingold or Leahy. I give a 70% probability of a second supermajority vote, this to cover Obama's ass, on an amendment that would permit the substantive court review of government surveillance, as provided by law, to continue. Any amendments and votes will be structured so as to leave the bill unamended by the Senate. The Republicans, who have been complaining about being denied the right to amend other bills, will argue against honoring the right to amend this bill.
  • Confirm five FEC Commissioners. The GOP wants this to be done today, in time to preclude the DNC filing of a Court Complaint, which it has a statutory right to do on Tuesday. I don't think the DC District Court would order a 30 day turnaround by the FEC (or to substitute a Court for the FEC, as the venue for review of the legal consequences of McCain's unilateral pullout of public financing in the primary campaign) in any event - but McCain doesn't want to divert resources to litigation.
  • Confirm Circuit (White and Kethledge) and District Court (Lawrence, Snow, and Murphy) nominations

A determined objector can delay passage through use of all available parliamentary devices:

  • Object to waiving first and second readings to be on successive days (no objection was raised)
  • Object to limiting debate on the motion to proceed (cloture motion filed Monday, 6/23)
  • Object to limiting debate on any/all pending amendment
  • Object to limiting debate on final passage
15:04: Senator Reid confirms the above as a rough list of action, and adds a Medicare bill. The votes on judicial nominees are tentatively to occur tomorrow afternoon.

The clerk reported the House message on Housing Bailout (H.R.3221), which is the business of the Senate. Then ... (pregnant pause) ...

Senator Reid moves to proceed to FISA, and the presiding officer notes that the motion is debatable ... (pregnant pause) ... [I've heard no objection in 2 minutes of silence, just that the motion to proceed is debatable] ... at 15:07, Senator Reid asks if a quorum call is in progress. There is not. Senator Reid files a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to FISA, H.R.6304. 17 DEM Senators signed on to this motion. At 15:08, Senator Reid noted the absence of a quorum.

The 17 Senators who called for a limited debate on the motion to proceed are: Whitehouse, Murray, Baucus, Johnson, Salazar, Mikulski, Rockefeller, Kohl, Casey, Inouye, Landrieu, Lincoln, Pryor, Feinstein, Carper, Lieberman, and McCaskill.

A cloture vote will happen Wednesday (unless the objectors agree to compress the time provided for in the rules), and then, if the objectors stick to the time frame provided in the rules, the FISA bill won't be made formally pending until an additional 30 hours have elapsed.

15:15: Senator Specter speaks on the FISA bill. He says the issues are a matter of constitutional rights vs. civil liberties, and in particular on the issue of retroactive immunity. He says only courts have the power to render a definitive ruling in this regard. He predicts that historians will look at the recent past as containing the greatest expansion of executive authority in the history of the country. He is not convinced that the warrantless wiretapping undertaken by President Bush was constitutional.

He also speaks on signing statements, and expresses objection to the breadth of assertion, in particular as to "enhanced interrogation," and statutory restrictions on law enforcement actions under the USA PATRIOT Act. Senator Specter says he has attempted to address this via legislation that aims to curtail the effect of executive signing statements. [good luck with that - the proper widget for Congress to reign in a president who flouts the law is impeachment, not more legislation]

He opines that the Court reviews of the Terrorist Surveillance Act and habeas has not been effectively addressed by the courts. He wishes SCOTUS had taken up the Sixth Circuit's reversal of Judge Taylor's opinion. He also points out the the Boumediene decision vindicates his (Specter's) point of view as to the proper balance between the Courts and Congress, in habeas, and that Congress misread the SCOTUS Rasul decision.

He also asserts that the executive branch has violated the 1947 security act that provides for the executive to inform Congress on certain matters. Senator Specter is pissed, and needs this venting, after which, he'll vote to pass the law requested by the administration (again).

15:27: He expresses a tough time coming to an ultimate conclusion, but is inclined to vote in favor of the bill - even though there is a better alternative (the same one he proposed before, substitution of the government for telecoms). He will be offering an amendment when the bill is brought up.

So when I come to a balance as to voting for the bill or not, my inclination is to vote in favor of the bill because of the importance of the ongoing activities of the telephone companies [which are UNKNOWN! - but later in this speech, Senator Specter notes "this data-mining and the work done by the telephone companies"], notwithstanding my deep concern for civil rights.


17:18: Senator Reid closing down the Senate. Tries to pass H.R.3540 with a substitute amendment, that extends FAA and Highway Trust Fund laws by 6 months. The Republicans (Kyl speaking for DeMint) object.

S.3180 - temporarily extend programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965

S.Res.440 - recognizing SOIL.

S.Res.596 - Congrats to the Celtics

17:21 - quorum call
17:22 - recess (not adjourn) until 10:00 a.m. Business tomorrow to be on Housing Bailout, with a cloture vote at 11:00 or so. He also expects votes this week on judicial confirmations, Medicare, and FISA.
17:24 - the Senate stand in recess until 10:00 a.m.


I think the implied promise of protection, in combination with the "blame game" following the inevitable "slip through," results in something resembling government by lottery. Most people fall into the trap of desiring, and politicians oblige by promising, near-flawless government protection. Any party that protects civil liberties will be tarred when an attack is perpetrated. So no party is an enthusiastic supporter of civil liberties.

The result is a spiral of more and more government intrusion, for our own protection, of course. The implied principle being, if we give up enough privacy, there won't be any successful attacks.

June 24

Cloture motion on the motion to proceed and Senator Specter's speech on proceeding to and passage of FISA (round three - H.R.6304).

The prepared statement is worth the time it takes to read. Agree with him or not, he makes his case succinctly, and with sufficient citation to fact and history to facilitate confirming research, and then reaching a properly informed opinion. Just one example, on the "power" that the proposed statute gives to the court, in retroactive immunity. Proponents of the bill argue that this bill provides for a substantive review of the TSP and other secret surveillance policies:

It is totally insufficient to confer immunity merely because the companies received written requests from the government saying the program was legal. While it is true that the standard of review has been changed from "abuse of discretion" to "substantial evidence" in this bill, the real question is "substantial evidence" of what? Only that the President authorized the program and the government sent written requests to the companies assuring them it was legal. The court is not required to find that the requests were lawful [comport with statutory language], or that the surveillance itself was constitutional.

He also spoke and wrote about the general subject of separation of power and checks and balances.

The Congress has been totally ineffective, punting to the courts and then seeking to limit the courts' authority as the House of Representatives is now doing. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Supreme Court had ducked and delayed deciding where the line is between Congressional authority under Article I and presidential authority under Article II.

Let me document the ineffectiveness of Congress:

He follows with a list of six particular areas. Here's number five.

(5) Military Commissions Act: Congress has been docile, really inert, in failing to push back on the executive's encroachment on our authority. My amendment to retain habeas corpus in the Military Commissions Act was defeated 48-51. Meanwhile, the Graham-Levin amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 passed by the shocking vote of 84-14 despite the fact that it was drafted overnight, had no hearing and virtually no debate with my having only two minutes to speak in opposition. On its face the amendment stripped the Supreme Court of jurisdiction by vesting exclusive jurisdiction with the District of Columbia Circuit. It would be hard to find an amendment on a more important subject given less scrutiny and passed with less thought and in such haste.

His written statement concludes with a description of his FISA amendment, and it's function - which is to provide for a substantive review by the District Court, of the statutory legality and/or constitutionality of the government's surveillance programs.

The case for [authorize the U.S. District Courts to determine the constitutionality of the administration's program before granting immunity to the telephone companies] has an important extra dimension beyond separation of powers. It involves a repugnant factor; namely, that the government had instigated and maintained for many years a secret practice, the scope of which is unknown to the public and known only to some members of Congress. It smacks of Star Chamber proceedings from old England. Now the administration insists on retroactive immunity and the House has complied. It is time the Senate stood up and earned its reputation as the "world's greatest deliberative body" and at least demonstrate some courage, if not a full profile, by insisting on judicial review.

I'll just add that Congress is complicit in this "repugnant factor." It's hacking off another piece of it's own credibility as being competent to provide a statutory remedy - pulling the ball away any time a plaintiff attempts to use it.

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Senate action will involve multiple amendments that have the effect of not giving the retroactive immunity that the administration demands. This is how the Senate provided cover when it passed S.2248. By offering multiple anti-immunity amendments and taking care in the ordering of votes on those amendments, the choreographers insure that no option will obtain enough support to be passed, yet over a majority of Senators can claim to have voted against retroactive immunity.


Pending on H.R.3221 - Housing bailout:

  • Dodd/Shelby "substitute" Amendment No. 4983
  • Bond Amendment No. 4987 (to Amendment No. 4983), to enhance mortgage loan disclosure requirements with additional safeguards for adjustable rate mortgages with an initial fixed rate and loans that contain prepayment penalty.
  • Dole Amendment No. 4984 (to Amendment No. 4983), to improve the regulation of appraisal standards.
  • Sununu Amendment No. 4999 (to Amendment No. 4983), to amend the United States Housing Act of 1937 to exempt qualified public housing agencies from the requirement of preparing an annual public housing agency plan.
  • Kohl Amendment No. 4988 (to Amendment No. 4983), to protect the property and security of homeowners who are subject to foreclosure proceedings.


10:05: Senator Reid lists things to do this week: FISA, Appropriations, Tax Extenders, Medicaid, Housing Reform. Some judicial confirmations will be handled this afternoon, exactly which is uncertain. Reid has spoken to Feingold on the FEC nominations (Feingold must be the Senator who wanted to converse with each of the nominees), and expects to be able to handle those today, as well. Senator Reid revisits the history of GOP obstruction to confirming enough nominees to establish a FEC quorum. Reid expects Feingold to have the conversation today (I note that if Feingold doesn't have the planned conversation, no confirmation vote today). Senator Reid goes on to divorce the DNC lawsuit from the timing of confirmation.

Senator Reid adds to plans for this week, FAA, Highway and Aids legislation.

Senator McConnell first rebuts the FEC points raised by Reid, but again accuses the Democrats of delay in confirming FEC nominees, in order to facilitate the filing of the lawsuit. He propounds a UC agreement that the Senate proceed TODAY to confirm the five nominees. Reid will object, the vote is conditional on Feingold reporting back he's had the conversation, he expects to hear in hours. McConnell goes back to the lawsuit. Methinks he protests too much. If the suit is totally without merit, the court will toss it - what's the big sweat?

McConnell's sees legislative priorities as the Housing Bailout (but he wants GOP amendments to be heard, and if they aren't, the bill is at risk of being rejected); Supplemental Appropriations; and FISA. On FISA, McConnell blames the House for inaction (ummm, the Senate has been sitting on the House bill H.R.3773 since March). He emphasizes that Democrats are coming around to approving Republican-endorsed bills, after lengthy delays. Opening screeches over at 10:16.


Senator Crapo demonstrates that the Democrats are objecting to GOP calling up of germane amendments. If this is a pattern, then my prediction below (of easy adoption of cloture) is out of rig. The GOP may withhold cloture as a lever to obtain agreement to have amendments made pending and voted on. Withholding cloture on the Housing Bailout wouldn't affect passage of other bills, Housing Bailout could just join the pile of other bills that have been debated then set aside.

11:49: The cloture motion to limit debate on the House message to accompany H.R.3221 - the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, was PASSED on a 83-9 vote (predicted 85-9 passage).

Senator Reid indicates that the Senate aims to get out by Friday or Saturday. Trying to work out votes on judges - the FEC nominations appear to be on track for today - FISA, Supplemental Appropriations, Medicare, and tax extenders.

He lets on that there is a possibility that the Housing legislation won't be completed (heheh), depending on the ability (or not) to work through agreements on GOP-sponsored amendments. Now I'm thinking this doesn't make sense at all, because with cloture being invoked on the substitute amendment to the underlying message from the House (regardless of which amendments are heard), the Senate is in position to vote 30 hours from now, on the overarching measure (the substitute amendment), period.

12:16: Senator Enzi just finished expressing why he is opposed to a massive taxpayer bailout of irresponsible lenders and borrowers. Tough cookies, Senator - your buddies in the Senate have some cash they want to hand out, in exchange for votes.

Senator Dodd is pointing to the wide margins for passage of various elements as evidence that this is a good bill. He will be on the opposite side of that argument, when the Senate takes up FISA later this week.

16:40: Mixed bag of speeches under the Housing Bailout heading, including Boxer on FISA, but most of the afternoon has been spent in quorum call. I've not heard a definite timing schedule for entering executive session to handle promised judicial confirmations and tentative FEC confirmations.

--- 16:54 Judicial Confirmation Action ---

Senator Reid asks UC to take the Senate to executive session with 4 hours of debate on Helene White [Sixth Circuit]. Following that vote, take up calendar Nos. 631 [Kethledge, also 6th Circuit] and 632 [Murphy, Eastern District of Michigan] with two minutes of debate between each of the three votes.

Further, that on Thursday, June 26, at a time to be determined by the majority and minority leaders, the Senate proceed to executive session and vote on calendar Nos. 627 [Lawrence, Southern District of Indiana] and 628 [Snow, District of Arizona] with one hour of debate, followed by votes.

There was no objection. He then asks for some of his spoken words to be deleted from the record. The UC agreement as recited was "[If White is not confirmed], then all aspect of this agreement are void with no intervening action or debate." The words stricken are just the "with no intervening action or debate" part that follows, but that follows ONLY IF White is not confirmed.

The four hours of debate under executive session are now running, on the nomination of Helene White, while the Senate is in quorum call.

Senator Leahy makes a long speech on the subject of judicial nominees. I disagree with his bottom line, that the GOP has most of the blame for the slow pace of confirmation action.

17:48: Senator Specter doing a repeat of his anti-immunity speech, this time on the case that was litigated in Detroit (Judge Taylor) and the Sixth Circuit, with SCOTUS denying certiorari. I think he is just correlating the importance of judicial nominations to the maintenance of a working balance of powers. Senator Specter indicates that Judge White has scant record, her opinions are unpublished; and when he's questioned her on the decisions she did reach, he found her use of law and application of logic to be wanting. He's explaining why he will recommend a vote against confirmation.

17:54 - Sudden interruption - exchange between Senators Leahy and Specter. The objective being to move to a roll call vote in the next hour or so; with a roll call on White, and voice votes on the others so the Senators can get out to their evening events. Specter says he'll complete quickly, but the record should express why he is withholding approval.

18:03: Senator Specter is still going, now on nominations in general, and on the application of "the Thurmond Rule," where the Senate refuses to confirm on the grounds that there will be a new administration following an impending election.

Roll call vote on Helene White is to start at 6:30, and confirmation of the other two judges is expected to be by voice vote.

18:57: The nomination of Helene White to the Sixth Circuit is CONFIRMED on a 63-32 vote
NAY votes: Alexander, Allard, Barrasso, Bennett, Brownback, Bunning, Burr, Chambliss, Coburn, Cochran, Corker, Cornyn, Craig, DeMint, Dole, Domenici, Ensign, Enzi, Graham, Gregg, Grassley, Hutchison, Inhofe, Kyl, McConnell, Martinez, Roberts, Specter, Sununu, Thune, Vitter, and Wicker

18:57: The nomination of Raymond M. Kethledge to the Sixth Circuit is CONFIRMED on a voice vote.

A goofy taunt and voice (I think Schumer) is caught on microphone, "Jack Reed got a haircut."

18:57: The nomination of Murphy to the Eastern District of Michigan was CONFIRMED on a voice vote.


Back into legislative session, no more votes today. Senator Reid indicates that he had hoped the Housing Bailout would pass tonight, where the House would have agreed promptly and then sent it to President Bush. Cloture runs out on Housing Bailout at 5:45 p.m. tomorrow, with two germane amendments to be voted on then. But there is objection to accepting other amendments, and if that objection persists, then the Housing Bill can consume the rest of this week.

--- FISA held Hostage to Housing Bill ---

The timeline of the Housing bill (with GOP objection) interferes with getting to FISA. On FISA, Senator Reid notes the strenuous objections of Dodd and Feingold, but at the same time, their understanding of "how the Senate works," and their willingness to give consent when the cause is lost -- however, Senator Reid says he will stay on the Housing Bill, in effect using it to hold FISA hostage. "If FISA doesn't pass before the recess, it's because the GOP is objecting to the Housing Bill."

Likewise on Supplemental Appropriations. It will be held up until the GOP relents on its objections to the Housing Bill.

Likewise on Medicare.

Senator Reid's priorities are Housing and Medicare. Meaning they must be completed before the Senate moves on to FISA and Supplemental Appropriations, FAA and Highway Trust fund.

19:10: Senator McConnell speaks. Just from the tone of his voice, he's hang-dog. He sees that Reid has a difficult job juggling these bills, and acknowledges that he and Senator Reid have the same objective - get all those bills passed this week. IOW, Senator McConnell doesn't directly attack the priority order asserted by Senator Reid.

A couple of Senators yield their single hours of post cloture time (on the Housing bill) to Senator Dodd, who is a manager of the Housing Bill. He can't speak with all of those hours, but he can direct them to other Senators as he sees fit.

My hunch is that the objector to the Housing Bailout will relent, and soon. Reid's description of a series of cloture motions on the Housing Bailout will NOT be needed in order to obtain final passage. From the objector's point of view, why put up the fight? President Bush has promised a veto of the Housing Bailout anyway.

19:26: Senator Reid announces he is glad that the Senate will be able to restore the FEC - must have heard that there is no DEM objection, after the one DEM Senator conversed with one of the nominees. Confirmation will be completed tonight (must be by voice vote, with three or fours Senators on the floor) 19:30: Senator Reid propounds a UC request to enter into executive session to handle five enumerated FEC nominations. There is no objection. The nominations are reported, and voice voted. Exactly one AYE vote is audible for each - Senator Reid's voice (except once, he delayed, and it seemed that nominee might not be confirmed) - there is no audible NAY vote. The funny and perfunctory "voting" charade is over at 19:32.

Two bills read the first time, getting them one step closer to being picked up "in regular order." S.3186 - LIHEAP, and H.R.6331 - Medicare ... both will be read for the second time on the next legislative day. Quorum call.

20:13: Senator Dodd shutting down the Senate, passes a mess of bills; a S.Res.599 expressing condolences to the families of Boy Scout victims of the Iowa tornadoes; another resolution honoring victims of the Khobar Towers bombing. After morning business, resumes consideration of the Housing Bailout.

Obviously reading without thinking, he asks to re-enter a period of morning business, then to strike that, then to the script that describes the presence (and effect) of objection to details in the Housing Bailout - "this shows how the will of one Senator can disrupt Senate progress."

He segues into the FISA subject, and his objection to retroactive immunity, and PURE SPECULATION of massive invasion of privacy, couched as an assumption a massive invasion occurred, and a demand to find out who was responsible.

He claims he is limited in the amount of time he can talk, being in post-cloture time. True that, But there is a MASSIVE disconnect, because he is occupying Housing Bill post-cloture time to debate FISA. There will be ANOTHER post-cloture time, after the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to FISA has been passed - tomorrow or the next day (Senator Dodd says, "sometime in the next 24 to 48 hours," a reflection of the expected time to complete Housing Bailout). There can be still another post-cloture period, if cloture is forced and obtained on final passage of FISA.

What's funny, is that some people will take Dodd's speech tonight as "FISA filibuster," when in fact, he's just burning time charged to the Housing Bill. What he's doing now has ZERO impact on the parliamentary status or process on the FISA bill.

20:45: Senator Dodd is touching many of the bases. Detainee treatment, habeas, waterboarding, US attorneys replacement, renditions, and other events having been justified as legal by administration lawyers, and stonewalled as to accounting to the public.

I was struck earlier today, reading Specter of yesterday - and thinking "What a yutz. He's pissed that the president isn't following the law, so he's proposing passing a law that says the president has to follow the law." The tool that Congress has, to reign in a president who isn't following Congressional orders, is called "impeachment," not "pass another law."

21:20: Senator Dodd is still burning FISA energy, while the clock is ticking on the Housing Bailout. Planned tactical move, to facilitate expeditious passage of FISA later in the week. When FISA is "up," he will have already said his piece, yes?

22:17: Senator Dodd's FISA speech is over. Closing the Senate. S.Res.600 passed.

22:20: Adjourned until 9:30 a.m., at which time it will resume consideration of Housing Bailout.

Mandatory quorum call for the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to H.R.6304 (FISA) is waived by UC.

June 25

Pure speculation on my part on today's events and interplay between Housing and FISA. I think the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to FISA will be conducted today, probably before noon. It will obtain the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed. The GOP can use this to claim bipartisan support for "FISA quickly," and Reid can use it as a "carrot" to obtain his wish that the GOP relax its insistence on getting simple majority votes on certain Housing Bailout amendments.

I don't have a handle on how Medicare and Supplemental Appropriations will fit in, although my sense is that neither the House-passed Supplemental Appropriations nor Medicare bill is seriously contentious. The ramifications of being non-contentious is that the Senate handling is fairly predictable (agree on a certain debate duration, so objection can be voiced, and agree to vote), making them easier to arrange in a debate and vote UC agreement. I don't see those bills as preventing a vote on passage of FISA before Saturday.

Senator Reid's stated position is that Housing and Medicare must pass before the recess, and FISA and Supplemental Appropriations can wait until after the recess.


Links to yesterday's debate points: Boxer/Bond - Schedule - Kyl - Dodd


09:35: Senator Reid says he hopes to complete the Housing Bailout promptly. S.3186 - LIHEAP, and H.R.6331 - Medicare are read a second time, and will appear on the legislative calendar tomorrow. Into quorum call.

11:00: Quorum call and nothing more except a speech by Grassley on a whistleblower who has been retaliated against, and a speech by Alexander, on energy prices.

11:12: Senator Dodd on the status of the Housing Bailout. He reiterates that the bill is being held up by a GOP objection to enter into a UC agreement on the DEMs terms. One GOP Senator is insisting on getting a vote on his amendment, and the Democrats say "no."

Senator Dodd says ALL the items, FISA included, will be handled before the Senate leaves, "either the hard way, or the easy way." I think he was just talking in a hurry, and urging the GOP to relent on insistence on having its amendment taken up. He says at some point, partisanship needs to step aside so the Senate can vote. He figures that, if the GOP Senator relents, the Housing Bill could probably be completed in four hours or less.

11:53: Setting up an order of debate, on "whatever" subject: Inhofe, Brown, Gregg, Feingold.

12:24: Gregg spoke on the Housing Bailout, Feingold is speaking on FISA.

Still no announcement or news on schedule details, as between Housing, Medicare, FISA and the Supplemental. And, don't forget FAA, tax extenders, Highway Trust fund, and .... I see a late night or two on the horizon.

12:52: Senator Feingold is done with his speech - back into quorum call.

13:26: Senator Reed (RI) on Housing Bailout. Back into quorum call at 13:47.

13:51: Senators Crapo and Leahy interrupt C-SPAN2's fine classical music. Senator Bond will follow Senator Leahy. Senator Leahy talks on FISA, most on the retroactive immunity provisions. He argues that the legal opinions that underpin the TSP were "ends-oriented," and the administration does not want these legal opinions to be reviewed, let alone be made public.

14:23: Senator Bond arguing for adopting cloture on the motion to proceed, and voting down any and all amendments to the FISA bill.

Given the sequence of a series of FISA speeches, I have a sense that the GOP objection to UC on the Housing Bailout will soon be resolved, moving a step closer to the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to FISA. Still up in the air, and obviously, I blew the prediction on the cloture vote being conducted this morning.

14:33: Senator Feinstein on FISA, to be followed by Senator Chambliss, then Senator Sanders.

Senator Feinstein makes the point that the PAA expires in the middle of August, and it therefore imperative that this bill pass, because otherwise, we will be unable to conduct surveillance on foreign targets. Utter hogwash. Old/original FISA provides rules only when surveillance involves the acquisition of communications of a person located in the US. See 50 USC 1801(f) for ALL of the categories of electronic surveillance. If it's not electronic surveillance, it's outside of FISA.

How soon we forget. The TSP was the acquisition of international communications, without a warrant, where one end is in the United States. THAT is the facility that the government doesn't want to relinquish. The foreign communications that will be "lost" (actually, have to a) be presented to a Court, or b) be in the nature of foreign intelligence and therefore protected by Constitutional authority) are those to or from people in the United States.

To argue this is about "foreign communications" is a really cheap trick. Hey - it works!

Now she's contradicting her earlier argument - by saying that the administration could have used old/original FISA to undertake the surveillance it needed to do. Well, if it could that, THEN, why can't it do it TOMORROW? At least she admits the court review in the soon to be pending FISA bill does not require a review of the good faith belief of the cooperating telecoms.

Finally, she argues that voting for this should not be interpreting as Congress finding past actions of telecoms to be legal. I say that's a bit of a fine/moot point, since Congress is saying "don't check it out." BS - we can't be held to have an opinion, just because we refuse to look.

15:01: Senator Chambliss, to be followed by Senators Sanders, then Hatch.

Senator Chambliss notes that Congressional leadership WAS involved, and DID agree with the TSP. He asserts that the surveillance undertaken was narrowly tailored to only numbers KNOWN to be associated with al Qaeda. If so, what is the problem with submitting that evidence to a court for exparte, in camera review? The court would CERTAINLY find such narrowly tailored surveillance to be for the purpose of gathering foreign intelligence, and therefore constitutional without regard to ANY statutory law.

15:17: Senator Sanders, against taking up the FISA bill. He should include in his argument, a strong military, and a strong support for the president's right, power and duty to seek foreign intelligence information without any impediment from Congress or the Courts.

15:31: Senator Hatch ... this has been kicking around since April 2007. [I thought the president had inherent authority anyway - who cares how long this takes? The president is empowered by the constitution, even if you boneheads in Congress do absolutely NOTHING.]

Ahhh .. he hints that the PUBLIC is harboring terrorists, and that's why the government has to have secret snooping against the public, in general. They wear our clothes and hide among us.

He defends all snooping done at the behest of the government as patriot defense of the country. I'd say the surveillance of the Quakers, Martin Luther King, and all COINTELPRO activity was likewise undertaken with a patriotic motivation, and then argue that patriotic motivation isn't relevant in deciding whether or not a surveillance program infringed the constitution.

16:05: Senator Wyden's turn in the barrel.

16:18: Senator Dodd ... I don't know if this is "Housing" Senator Dodd, or "FISA" Senator Dodd. He starts out as "FISA" Senator Dodd, riffing from Senator Wyden's speech. He also discloses that he will be offering an amendment to strip the retroactive immunity from the bill.

16:21: Senator Rockefeller, advocating for passage of the FISA bill. Into quorum call at 16:39.


16:45: Senator Dodd back up, praising Senator Rockefeller for his efforts on FISA, in spite of their differences. He's wearing his Housing Bailout hat now, and arguing for the GOP to drop its insistence on amendment, so the children, grandchildren, and others can be spared the financial hardship that accompanies foreclosure.

Senator Dodd announces that he or Senator Reid will be propounding a UC request on the Housing Bill, within an hour or so, and he challenges the objector to come to the floor to make the objection in person. Quorum call at 16:55 or thereabouts.


18:06: Broke the logjam, eh? Voting underway on the substitute amendment to the Housing Bailout. I was "away," far far away. Listening to a recording of what I missed for clues on the schedule.

So far, what I gather is simply that 30 hours of post cloture time has expired, and the vote relating to that specific cloture motion is being taken. Various underlying amendments were disposed of in the usual fashion (passing by UC, withdrawing). This vote does not dispose of the House Message. The "parade of House Bailout delay" is still not conclusively resolved.

18:23: The Motion to Concur in the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment striking sec. 1 through Title V and Inserting Language to the Senate Amdt. to H.R.3221 - the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, was PASSED on a 79-16 vote.

Cloture vote on the motion to proceed to FISA

18:42: The motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R.6304 - FISA, was PASSED on a 80-15 vote (predicted 77-18 passage).
NAY Votes: Biden, Boxer, Brown, Cantwell, Dodd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Kerry, Lautenberg, Leahy, Menendez, Sanders, Schumer, and Wyden

18:43: On the Housing Bill, Senator Reid asks for UC to pass H.R.3221 back to the House with a manager's amendment. Senator Ensign objects, on the grounds that he wants to have a vote on the renewable energy tax bill - and he calls out the inconsistency on "not paid for" grounds (i.e. taxes aren't increased to pay for this), because the bill also a separate 2.5 billion dollar program, "not paid for."

Senator Reid says the House has already indicated that it won't accept the bill with Ensign's amendment. He also points out that FISA, Medicare, and Supplemental Appropriations are being held up by this objection.

Senator Reid notes that FISA has wide support, and should be brought up for amendment. Too, Housing Bailout is important, so taxpayers can foot part of the bill to keep people in housing they could not otherwise afford. Both of these, says Senator Reid, have broad, bipartisan support. So does the Medicare "doctor's fix," passing the House with 355 AYE votes (and having the support of AARP, AMA).

Senator Reid says all the named bills (Housing, Medicare, FISA, Supplemental Appropriations) could be passed tomorrow, but for GOP objection. That means there is little further energy to delay passage of FISA. Senator Reid threatens to stay in session through the weekend and into next week, if necessary to get Housing Bailout and Medicare passed. He notes that it would take two further cloture motions to get Housing Bailout in line for passage, if Senator Ensign does not relent on his insistence.

FAA, Global Aids aid are also being held up (this is a big sob story).

Senator McConnell aims to brighten the day and lift the mood of Senator Reid. He says the only part of the Supplemental that needs to be voted on is domestic spending, and that is not contentious; the Medicare "doc fix" likewise isn't contentious; FISA appears to be non-contentious, based on the vote margins; and the Housing bailout is also in condition for passage. All of these, says McConnell, are doable before the week is out. [Sounds as though he knows he can get Senator Ensign to relent, otherwise "this week" is not going to be as productive as "Mr. Smiles" McConnell suggested].

The chair confirms that the matter presently before the Senate is the motion to proceed to FISA, which is now in the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time. I note that absent UC otherwise, 30 hours runs out just after midnight tomorrow, so FISA will be "pending" (perhaps co-pending with Housing Bailout and other bills) as of Friday morning at the very latest.

19:40: Senator Reid closing down the Senate. H.R.6040 - To amend the Water Resources Development Act of 2007, was read three times and passed.

"We're going to come in tomorrow and see what can be accomplished." He reiterates his threat to stay in session through Saturday if necessary to either cause the GOP to relent on its objection on the Housing Bailout, or to run the clock toward an eventual vote on that bill. He did NOT repeat his previous express condition of completing Housing Bailout before voting on passage of FISA ....


... in fact, he expressly TOOK IT BACK, saying that the Housing Bill would be completed the first week that the Senate gets back from recess!! That, in combination with the express threat to stay in through Saturday if necessary, to get other bills passed, tells me the priorities have been radically shuffled. Housing Bailout is no longer #1.

Listen for yourself.

... it's a shame I know we talked about the fact we were unable to complete the Housing Bill but we'll complete that the first week we get back, and ummm, by then, Senators Dodd and Shelby maybe will have more things worked out with the House ..."

With Housing Bailout off the top of the deck, we're looking at Medicare ("doc fix"), FISA, and Supplemental Appropriations. I predict the Senate finishes these tomorrow, then adjourns for the Fourth of July recess.

Senator Reid's request for cooperation and "if people want to play out this clock, people will really have to be here Friday and Saturday" threat is aimed at opposition to those three bills - probably opposition to FISA, for the most part.

19:42: The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 a.m. Thursday - at which time it will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R.6304 - FISA.

It's damn near Recess! Good thing. I need a break from these jokers and clowns.

June 26

Thinking of a curious juxtaposition, stack the Heller decision predicted later today (a judicial comment viewing the core values and functions of the second amendment as supporting individual rights as over the government), against the Senate passing of FISA (an executive comment, made through a worthless Congress, rejecting the core "individual" values and functions of the fourth amendment).

Congress and the Executive are in cahoots, and are at war with the Courts.


Another thought, this one tongue in cheek (I hope), and riffing off the Housing Bailout bill.

Congress is purporting to reign in energy speculators through legislation and regulation. As they do so, some of the speculators will suffer catastrophic financial loss. Congress will then step in and urge a bail-out.


From the legislative calendar, the program for today begins with:

... resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R. 6304, the FISA legislation ... that Senator Murkowski, or designee, control the time from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.


Links to FISA debate from June 25:
Feingold / Leahy / Bond / Feinstein / Chambliss / Sanders / Hatch / Rockefeller
Cloture on Motion to Proceed / Schedule

Senator REID: We have all talked about FISA. I voted on the motion to proceed, not because I like the bill, but I think it is very important that there be an opportunity to offer amendments on it. Senator Bond and Senator Rockefeller recognize that and know they would also feel it appropriate to have amendments on this legislation, but right now it appears we are not going to have that opportunity....

On FISA, I recognize that Members of the House and Senate have worked hard for 3 months to come up with these improvements. Some of my Democratic colleagues will support a FISA compromise. I respect their decision. Even though I may disagree with the majority of the Senate, I have an obligation, as I said last night, to do everything I can to move this forward. We should be able to do that this week. ...

I have said our Republican colleagues, on occasion, have acted Orwellian this year; they say one thing and do another. I guess today is an appropriate day to say this because it is George Orwell's birthday today. He would be 105 today.


09:35: Senator Reid reminds us that there will be confirmation votes on two District Court judges today, with an hour of debate before the votes. He likens this week as "spinning wheels in the sand," and indicates that today could either be productive or frustrating. The Senate has three bills [Reid can't count, there are four], FISA (Reid has spoken with Hoyer on this); Housing (he'll probably file cloture motions on this, and push it out to after the recess - the same move is POSSIBLE with FISA, for what it's worth); Supplemental Appropriations (he hopes to have a UC agreement today, to handle this before recess); and Medicare (which MUST be completed before the recess). He will file a cloture motion at or after midnight tonight, if necessary, to provoke a vote on passage of Medicare.

09:40 Senator McConnell pushes on passage of FISA. He says the needs for FISA update is technology driven. He also blows smoke on the immunity issue, that the suit might bankrupt telecoms. He also says that presidential power to snoop depends on Congressional action. Say what? He urges passage without further delay. The bill "represents the epitome of compromise." High fives to Senator Bond.

Some inaudible cross-talk between Senators Reid and McConnell as Senator McConnell changes to the subject of fallen service-members, Tatjana Reed and William G. Bowling.

09:58: Senator Reid asks UC to take up and pass Highway Trust - Senator DeMint objects. Senator Reid offers to reduce the amount of money to be committed. Senator DeMint says the Senate decided, last time around, to divert money to earmarks instead of the general "Highway Trust Fund." I'm thinking, if we drive less, there will be less call for highway maintenance. Senator Reid argues back, adding money here will help the economy - and that the trust fund is depleted because people aren't buying less fuel and aren't traveling as much.

Same idea on taking up and passing H.R.6327 - FAA Trust Fund, except there was no objection, and the bill was passed without objection.

H.R.6331 - Medicare (doc fix) - Senator Gregg would rather extend the current provisions for 30 days just to have time to debate the points in the Medicare bill, and objects. Senator Reid notes the huge margin of passage in the House. He says he will object to a 30 day extension; after which Senator Gregg chuckles, and propounds a UC request for just that, and is met with the promised objection.

End of opening maneuvers. On to FISA. Senator Bond leading for the proponents.

There won't be any signs of which amendment will become pending, or times for debate to occur between taking the bill up (later this afternoon) and voting on final passage (indefinite time - but my guess is the bill will pass today).

10:21: Senator Bond sends the Senate into quorum call. Could be a quiet day, until the elapse of post-cloture debate time.


10:21: SCOTUS hands down the Heller decision, a 5-4 ruling finding an individual right to own arms. Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter and Ginsburg.

Now, "It's about the Courts" can point to Heller. Personally, just based on the closeness of this decision (considering the stakes are "personal right vs. no personal right"), I wouldn't piss on a Democrat if he or she was on fire. Come election time, the "It's about the Courts" argument can invoke Heller, to much better effect than pointing to Roe /Casey.

The Democrats are inclined to take MY personal right to own firearms. Screw them and the horse they rode in on.


10:48: Senator Graham. US is a battlefield, we are at war, technology has outstripped the law, we can't use punishment because terrorists don't fear punishment, we have to use prevention.

Government snooping is not a bad thing, it is a good thing. We've ignored warnings in the past, so the more snooping we do, the better. The telecoms should not be sued for helping the government defeat its enemies. If immunity is taken out of this bill, he will not vote for the bill. If Obama is against immunity, he is not bipartisan.


11:00: Senator Murray on the Boeing/Airbus dispute.

Senator Rockefeller took another bite at his allotted one hour in post cloture debate. Back into quorum call around 11:30. I'm guessing the motion to proceed to FISA will be "voted on" or adopted around 4:00. Immediately thereafter, the contour of debate leading to the inevitable vote for passage will start to clarify.

11:55: Senator Brown on economic woes, and education handouts.

12:00: Senator Durbin on the Medicare (docs help) bill.

12:10: Senator Kohl on energy prices. I say Congress should make oil "free." Voila, no more energy crisis.

12:13: Senator Ensign on the Housing Bailout bill and the renewable energy amendment that he wants to apply to the Housing Bailout bill.

12:30: Senator Brown asked consent to address the House for 10 minutes. He was corrected - "This is the Senate." Fluff speech on poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

12:35: Senator Kerry notes that the Senate is the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, in the World's Greatest Democracy. But he doesn't think we monkey enough in foreign affairs.

12:51: Senator Casey is concerned about the war in Afghanistan. This is the "real front" in the WOT, says he. Whack-a-mole.

13:07: Senator Grassley defending ethanol subsidies, and informs us that the cost of food is driven by the cost of oil - and global competition/demand for oil.

You know, if oil was $1,000 a barrel, the contrasting price of biofuels would make it easy to argue that biofuels reduce the price of energy.

Mind you, I'm not against ethanol - my beef is with massive government manipulation of the energy and food markets with subsidy and other financial controls (e.g., tax). Quorum call at 13:22 or so.

13:33: Senator Murkowski starts her allotted time. She's talking about the Alaskan constitution, and the way it deals with natural resources. She's done at 13:39, and yields the floor to Senator Stevens.

14:14: Senator Warner on FISA. The usual arguments, including the wide margin of passage of the SSCI bill in February (13-2), companies acted "in good faith," and the orders were "lawful."

14:24: Senator Stabenow on the Medicare bill. She's also bitching about filibusters dragging down the pace of Senate business. Quorum call at 14:41.


The House is planning to adjourn for fourth of July recess, at the end of business today. That means an amended bill can't be passed by Congress until after the recess, no matter what.

It reduces Senator Reid's options - and also affects his threat to hold the Senate through the recess. If an amendment passes (or even if one comes up for debate), he might as well recess the Senate too, rather than work through the weekend.


15:00: Senator Sessions on the Airbus/Boeing contest.

15:15: Senator Inhofe on Robert Mugabe.

15:25: Casey, Whitehouse, Durbin ... spinning wheels in the sand until the hour of taking up the motion to proceed to FISA arrives.


15:55: Executive session looming. I'd forgotten all about the UC agreement to deal with a pair of judicial nominations. One hour of debate having been allowed (not that it will all be used), followed by votes.

16:15: Senator Leahy on energy prices, home ownership, and the economy. Then segues into judicial nominations, and defends, with misdirection and statistics, the performance of the Democratically-lead Senate in acting on judicial nominations.

16:34: Senator Leahy asks for a roll call vote on the pending nominations, after yielding back all time. Two back to back roll call votes. Both will be confirmed unanimously.

Further, that on Thursday, June 26, at a time to be determined by the majority and minority leaders, the Senate proceed to executive session and vote on calendar Nos. 627 [Lawrence, Southern District of Indiana] and 628 [Snow, District of Arizona] with one hour of debate, followed by votes.

Once that's done, with the Senators assembled, it'll be a good time to proceed to FISA, and see what sort of agreement, if any, has been worked out.

17:00 97-0 vote on the Lawrence nomination. Voice vote started to be called on the Snow nomination, but there is some point of confusion in the full Senate, so, with 97 Senators present, a quorum call.

17:07: Senator Reid - second judicial vote will be by voice vote, followed by quorum call, followed by 15-30 minute quorum call (Senator Reid does note that the Senate works on "dog time", so 15-30 minutes may be longer). The nomination of Snow is confirmed at 17:08, and the Senate goes into that predicted 15-30 minute quorum call.

17:13: Senator Reid says "we don't have our path forward, and that would be an understatement," and asks for half an hour of morning business, time to be counted against the 30 hours of post cloture time. Senator Menendez opens a speech on oil prices and blames it on President Bush. Senator Sanders notes that Congress can fix all our health care "problems," Senator Bond spouts some conclusions about the legality/constitutionality of government snooping, even though he has no facts about the extent of the snooping. Senator Tester speaks on the GI Bill from 17:43 to 17:48, then into quorum call.

Senator Akaka on the GI Bill, Senator Grassley on tax policy ... you are getting veeeeery tired ....

Holy crap. Senator Grassley puts up a chart that is a cartoon figure, "the big, bad wolf." He says, "that's the Democrats, saying they'll blow the house down," referring to strict adherence to PAYGO.

18:25: Senator Grassley yields the floor to Senator Cantwell. She's on the subject of energy prices. At 18:29, to Senator Baucus who urges passage of the Medicare (doc fix) bill tonight. At 18:36, to Senator Cornyn on the subject of Medicare and the physician reimbursement formula (doc fix) - he moans that the proposal is being offered as a "take it or leave it" proposition. He also notes an upcoming cloture vote on Medicare - sounds like cloture event where the motion is filed and the vote is taken shortly thereafter.

Senator Cornyn goes on, regarding the price of energy. He wonders what price will cause the Congress to relent and encourage domestic production (I wonder when Congress will just butt out). He yields to Senator Hatch at 18:50. Senator Hatch continues on Grassley's theme, that tax extenders (deductions for school supplies, push-out the trigger level for alternative minimum tax, R&D tax credits) should be implemented.

Senator Hatch says he will oppose the cloture motion on the motion to proceed to H.R.6331 - Medicare. Yep. Cloture motion and cloture vote without the intervening day provided for in Senate Rule XXII.

Senator Hatch notes the presence of Majority and Minority leaders on the floor, and prepares to defer - they wave him off.


Jurist: Canada court orders release of Khadr classified information

Canada cannot now object to the disclosure of this information. The information is relevant to the applicant’s complaints of mistreatment while in detention. While it may cause some harm to Canada-US relations, that effect will be minimized by the fact that the use of such interrogation techniques by the US military at Guantánamo is now a matter of public record and debate. In any event, I am satisfied that the public interest in disclosure of this information outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure.


19:08: Senator Ried - UC request - Cloture motion on a motion to proceed to H.R.6331, with one hour of debate before the cloture vote, followed by debate and vote, including on final passage.

H.R.2642 - Supplemental Appropriations - Coburn point of order (budget act), then vote on the motion to concur in the House amendment.

Senator McConnell will not object - he wonders if 60 minutes of debate are needed on Medicare. Reid says yes.

19:11: Cloture motion filed on the motion to proceed to H.R.6331 - Medicare

H.R.6304 - FISA to be taken up again after recess, on Tues July 8 - all post cloture time to be yielded back, Senate proceed to the bill ... (agreement provides for ...
three amendments [none having supermajority threshholds],
five hours of debate on the amendments,
a cloture vote on final passage,
an hour of debate on final passage, and
a vote on final passage. A day of work - I'll fill in more details later)

19:13: Cloture motion filed on final passage of H.R.6304 - FISA

The 16 Senators who called for a limited debate on the bill were: Nelson (NE), Rockefeller, Carper, Pryor, Nelson (FL), Feinstein, Casey, Mikulski, McCaskill, Conrad, Inouye, Landrieu, Lieberman, Whitehouse, Bayh, and Salazar.

(The 17 Senators who called for a limited debate on the motion to proceed were: Whitehouse, Murray, Baucus, Johnson, Salazar, Mikulski, Rockefeller, Kohl, Casey, Inouye, Landrieu, Lincoln, Pryor, Feinstein, Carper, Lieberman, and McCaskill.)

19:15: Cloture motion filed on final passage of H.R.3221 - Housing Bailout Cloture vote at 5:00 p.m. Monday, July 7.

19:17: Senator Reid is "satisfied" that a plan has been laid out to get all the work done. The spinning of wheels in the sand has been fixed, progress has been set in motion. He notes that the DEMs have a very slim majority.

The short version: Action today will be H.R.6331 - Medicare and H.R.2642 - Supplemental Appropriations, then recess. H.R.3221 - Housing Bailout and H.R.6304 - FISA are pushed out to the week of July 7.

Listen to the UC Agreements and a bit of follow up speechifying:


19:22: The Senate shifts to the consideration of H.R.6331 - Medicare.

20:20: Start the vote on the motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to H.R.3221 - Medicare

20:55: The motion to invoke cloture on H.R.3221 - Medicare, was REJECTED on a 58-40 vote

Senator Reid entered a NAY vote so he could enter a motion to reconsider. This missed by one vote.

H.R.5690 - removing the designation of terrorist organization from African National Congress, was passed.

Sentor McConnell proposes a clean 30 day extension of Medicare - a new bill, not yest sent to the desk, to be read three times and passed. Senator Reid hems and haws, and says that if the GOP wanted to help, it would have agreed to taking up H.R.3221. Rather than answer "is there objection," he uses leader time to deliver a speech - then he objects.

Senator McConnell is heated - he is upset that there is no agreement to at least hold status quo, as a result, there will be a reduction in payments to doctors starting next week (it just changes billing, and results in a big paperwork mess, in fact).

Senator Reid says "must have been a Freudian slip, '59 Democrats voted for this,' but next year there will be 59 Democrats in the Senate."


21:11: The Senate moves onto the Supplemental Approriations bill. Senate Amendments to the House Amendments to the Senate Amendments to the House bill ...

21:19: Senator Coburn rasises a point of order against a 300 million dollar (I think) Census Bureau funding detail, being improperly designated as "emergency." He says the Census Bureau has sufficient funds, there is no emergency. Senator Murray bald-face LIES and says the point of order is against EVERY item in the bill that carries the designation "emergency spending."

21:41: Senator Coburn's "emergency designation" budget point of order against H.R.2642 - Supplemental Appropriations, was WAIVED on a 77-21 vote

Last vote coming up, this is on the motion to concur in the House amendment ...

Chatter in the background, "Have a good week." "I will, you too."

21:55: The motion to concur in the House amendment to (the Senate amendment to the House amendment ...) H.R.2642 - Supplemental Appropriations, was PASSED on a 92-6 vote
NAY votes: Allard, Coburn, Craig, DeMint, Kyl, Voinovich


Senator Nelson of Florida asks UC to take up and pass S.2766 - Clean Boating Act.
Senator Murkowski asks to have the bill amended, Senator Boxer says the amendment is a substitute that was never before a Committee - and objects to Murkowski's amendment. 13 million recreational boaters will not have to get a permit to discard their pollution, says Boxer.

Senator Murkowski objects to passing S.2766. That's going to piss some people off. There are 38 sponsors of the bill, about half of them are Republicans.

22:00: Senator Landrieu speaks on the Supplemental (just passed), and starts begging for money. She is pissed off that the Senate reduced payments and debt forgiveness to Louisiana, and she will object to everything in sight until she gets her way. Her idea of "10 minutes" uses the same "dog minutes" that Reid referred to - the minutes run a little on the long side. Done at 22:16, and she takes 2 additional minutes to pay tribute to a recently deceased NOLA character, Justice Revius Ortique of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

22:23: Into quorum call. Senate shutdown for recess is imminent. No more substantial business to conduct, that I can see.

22:36: Senator Dodd speaks briefly on Housing Bailout. He asserts that foreclosure is the lynchpin of the country's economic woes worldwide. He's disappointed that the Housing Bill wasn't completed, but one or two members were refusing to allow amendments to go to debate. He's disturbed and disappointed that FISA is getting greater priority and attention than foreclosure bailouts. Done at 22:49

S.2565 - Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Act of 2007 - passed

H.R.3986 - John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2007 - passed as amended

H.R.802 - Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2007 -passed as amended

S.Res.604 - Cal State Bulldog Baseball Congrats - passed

S.Res.605 - Commemmorating 60th anniversary of Berlin Airlift - passed

H.Con.Res.379 - Conditional Adjournment Resolution - passed

S.3218 - to extend pilot program of obtaining criminal background checks - passed

Three bills first reading:
S.3202 - to address record high gas proces
S.3213 - to designate national wilderness areas
H.R.3195 - restore intent and protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Oral modification of the UC agreement relating to FISA - Specter and Bingaman amendments to be subjected to 60 vote thresholds.

22:58: Adjourned to 9:45 Friday. Next vote at 5:30 pm Monday, July 7.

June 27

09:50: Senator Reid reiterates the general plan for the week of July 7, with FISA in line to be completed on July 8th.

Today will be used to clear a number of nominations. Senator Reid goes through the usual preliminary speech and justifications that will be later supplanted (we sought agreement with the WH, but just didn't get it) to support ordering pro forma sessions through the recess.

10:10: Senator Reid propounds a UC agreement to pass S.2731 - Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, with the Biden Lugar substitute amendment, and is met with rejection.

Senator Reid say this objection will be an embarassment to President Bush in his international travels and talks.

Senator Reid then propounds an alternative UC agreement - the bill to come to the floor when both leaders agree, with specified amendments to be in order (2 on each side, plus the usual panoply of routine amendments, i.e., manager's amendment), debate on the bill limited to 2 hours, debate on each amendment also having time limits. To be folded into (in place of) H.R.5501 and sent back to the House.

Senator Sessions says he's not at liberty to give consent on behalf of Senator Kyl - and that as the House is out of session, agreeing now (as opposed to after recess) does not save time.

Senator Reid is disappointed, but indicates he intends for this bill to be taken up and passed in the next work period - before the summer recess.

Senator Sessions notes that Senators are right to withhold consent to pass a bill, until they evaluate it, and points to changes instigated by Senator Coburn that improve the effectiveness (disease reduction) of the bill. Exchange over at 10:18.


Senator Cantwell on energy prices, and economic woes. "This really is a problem for us." You said it sister. If the Democrats had a lick of sense, they'd accept their share of blame for trying and failing to micromanage the economy into good condition.

Her solution is to assert control over the futures trading. Technically, to order the CFTC to assert control (obviously the bureaucrat failure, Congress can't be responsible for anything).

She asks UC to pass H.R.6377

To direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to utilize all its authority, including its emergency powers, to curb immediately the role of excessive speculation in any contract market within the jurisdiction and control of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, on or through which energy futures or swaps are traded, and to eliminate excessive speculation, price distortion, sudden or unreasonable fluctuations or unwarranted changes in prices, or other unlawful activity that is causing major market disturbances that prevent the market from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand for energy commodities.

Senator Sessions offers a modification, to make H.R.6377 the first order of business after FISA, and that it be permitted to offer and debate the language of S.3202 - A bill to address record high gas prices at the pump - as an alternative. No dice, says Cantwell, this word needs to get to President Bush now, so the CFTC treats the futures regulation situation as an "emergency."


EFF is hosting what would be the WH Policy Statement on the H.R.6304 - FISA. EFF: "DNI and AG Fear Court Ruling on Warrantless Wiretapping"
Link to policy statement (pdf)

"Will veto" if any of the amendments pertaining to retroactive immunity are passed. The administration continues to argue for absence of ANY Court review of its actions.


13:32: Senator Levin seems to be shutting down the Senate. He just passed about 12 bills en bloc (maybe Post Office namings).

H.Con.Res.277 is passed.

H.R.3564 is passed, with a Coburn amendment held at the desk.

13:36: In executive session, a number of nominations are confirmed (reading a list of 20 or 30 calendar numbers)

13:38: The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. Monday, June 30, 2008, when it will be open until 2:00 p.m. conduct a pro forma session; then will adjourn until 2:00 p.m. Monday, July 7, 2008.


Blogger bmaz said...

cboldt - You in here? Question - assuming the House slams the FAA through on Friday, what type of tricky mechanisms cna the Senate utilize to restrict debate, holds, amendments etc. In a nutshell, what are they going to pull? EW is sketchy as to stability. Feel free to email at bmaz22 at gmail

6/19/2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

Assuming there is no resistance from Senate leadership (Reid), the best tool in the kit is objecting to the motion to proceed - and then objecting to limit debate on the bill.
That pair of objections invokes a series / sequential working of the cloture process, and each cloture process takes a day between the motion and the vote, then 30 hours after passing cloture the cloture motion.
Example: Objection to (debatable) motion to proceed tomorrow. Cloture motion filed tomorrow, cloture vote Tuesday morning. Cloture passes, then 30 hours of debate means the motion to proceed is adopted Wednesday, noonish. Do the same with limiting debate on final passage. Cloture motion on Wednesday, cloture vote on Friday next. 30 hours of "debate" following passage of cloture (agreement to limit debate) on final passage.
It won't happen. Dodd and Feingold will figure out the conclusion is foregone, and they don't want to piss off their pals by creating a delay in recess. They'll be satisfied with ONE cloture vote, and they'll probably agree to compress the rules-based time periods.
Theoretically, there are motions to commit to committee, etc. (Specter pulled that out on the habeas issue, where the bill had never gone through Judiciary). Leadership has control over which motions and amendments can come up, and some of them aren't debatable so they don't involve an opportunity to use the cloture widget.
ANY amendment means the amended bill has to be taken up by the House - but as a practical matter, an amendment would either be a minor amendment that could pass pronto - or a deal killer. I don't foresee any deal-killer amendments getting by the Senate.
The essential device of the game this time around will be "baffle the public with doubletalk." That is, obscure statutory language, coupled with gross misrepresentation of the actual meaning (as opposed to the plain English meaning) of the statutory language.

6/19/2008 4:52 PM  
Blogger egregious said...

Hey cboldt. Very helpful site.

6/24/2008 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Casual Observer said...

cbolt--isn't housing bill delay good for FISA?

6/25/2008 12:11 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

At this point, the delay in passing the Housing Bill is "agnostic" as to the fate of FISA timing.
Whoever objected to FISA being proceeded to gets a delay, under the rules, that amounts to the time from filing the cloture motion to the invocation of cloture, plus 30 hours until the vote on the underlying matter. As long as the vote on the underlying matter is pushed out that "one day next plus 30 hours," the objector got all the delay he could get under the rules.
The Housing Bill delay can't be taken as pushing out of FISA, unless and until the Housing Bill keeps running past tomorrow afternoon.

6/25/2008 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Casual Observer said...


if you're still around, any ideas on what the best way to push FISA into the recess?

6/25/2008 12:46 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

FISA can be pushed into the recess if an objector refuses to give consent to a time or event-based trigger for taking a vote on final passage.
In order to surmount that objection, yet another cloture motion has to be filed. Assume that is filed on Thursday. The cloture vote cannot happen on Friday, under Senate Rule XXII, but it could happen on Saturday. Assuming that cloture is invoked on Saturday, there are 30 hours of post-cloture debate time. That puts a vote on final passage out to Sunday afternoon.
If amendments are allowed, then an objector can use refuse to give consent to a time to vote on the amendment. That would make a total of three **cloture motion - cloture vote - post cloture debate** instances, before the bill would advance to final passage.
It's possible in theory - but it won't happen in practice. Senators monkey with recess plans at their own peril.

6/25/2008 1:00 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

Let me add another element to that calculus.
Assume that FISA is in fact delayed until July. So what? Is that success?
It is a delay to the administration, to be sure. But if FISA passes by July 25, it's still "in time" to avoid what the administration refers to as "going dark."
Not that I buy "going dark" as being factually true - but I note that it is nearly 100% effective as a political slogan.
At any rate, I think the administration and the Democratic party can afford to have a battle to "show the public who is REALLY lookin' out for you." And I don't think the administration REALLY minds a delay into July. It'll piss and moan for show - it helps make the Democrats look tough, and that's good show business.

6/25/2008 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Casual Observer said...


Thanks. I appreciate you knowing the senate rules and ways so well.

6/25/2008 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is there no talk of the H.R. 5749 unemployment extension?

6/26/2008 12:05 PM  
Blogger cboldt said...

-- Why is there no talk of the H.R. 5749 unemployment extension? --
Either it's contentious, and not as important as what is being taken up, or it will pass easily and will just come up at some point before recess. I'm not up to speed "for certain," but I think it's contentious, so not apt to pass in the next few days.

6/26/2008 5:47 PM  

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