Monday, June 02, 2008

June 2008 - Almost Summer Recess

President Bush's May 31 Radio Address contained this list of demands for legislation:

  • A responsible war funding bill
  • An expansion of the GI Bill
  • FISA reform with telecom immunity
  • Colombian Free Trade Agreement
  • Nominations, ESPECIALLY Federal Reserve, Council of Economic Advisers, and Steve Preston as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Modernize the Federal Housing Administration, reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • Legislation to expand domestic energy production


Today's action will include a 5:30 p.m. cloture vote as to whether or not to limit debate on a motion to proceed to S.3036 - The Lieberman/Warner cap-and-trade scheme.

14:07: Opening remarks pertain to energy policy. No hints as to what will be taken up should the Senate fail to agree to limit debate on taking up the Warner/Lieberman scheme.

14:24: Senator Reid is "stunned" that Senator McConnell is surprised the Senate would consider taking up a carbon cap and trade scheme while energy prices are high. He talks as though he expects cloture to be invoked, followed by the 30 hours of post-cloture debate time rather than waiving that time, and proceeding directly to the bill. Another example of GOP delay, says Reid. And given the state of the economy, this legislation should be taken up, not blocked. "Global warming is real, and it is caused by man-made pollution. ... No one can dispute that."

17:57: Cloture to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.3036 - The Lieberman/Warner cap-and-trade scheme, was PASSED on a 74-14 vote.
NAY Votes: Allard, Barasso, Bunning, Byrd, Coburn, Craig, DeMint, Enzi, Hatch, Inhofe, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Shelby

Senator Boxer asks for UC that the Senate proceed to the bill tomorrow, immediately after morning business. The Republicans object. Likewise, to a proposal to proceed after the Senate's beauty photo. Senator Boxer is disappointed that the debate can't start straightaway, but she's pleased that the bill and subject will be debated.

Senator Kerry asserts that GOP insistence on 30 hours before adopting the motion to proceed (to formally take up the bill) is based on a specious premise, that somehow Senate debate time has limits, so THIS 30 hours is vital. He's correct.

18:25: Senator Boxer adjourned the Senate until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

White House Statement of Policy on S.3063 (Will veto).

June 3

NRO Corner: 06/03 06:28 AM (citing "Roll Call")

Another senior Senate Democratic staffer echoed those sentiments: “Everyone knows this bill is going nowhere. The president is opposed to it. The House is not inclined toward action on this, and now we’re going to spend valuable floor time on a bill that’s going nowhere ... while Republicans are champing at the bit to accuse Democrats of raising gas prices.”… “Boxer is walking us off a cliff,” another senior Senate Democratic aide said.

10:12: Senator Reid basically complains about the "filibuster" that delays moving forward with the Captain Trade (a play on cap 'n' trade) bill. At the same time, he is concerned about permitting an open amendment process, and resurrects the Republicans raising a McCain-friendly amendment in the context of debate on the GI bill of rights.

This looks like a do-nothing day, from this distance.

June 4

In a House-pressuring (or maybe recess planning) move, the Senate will vote on S.Con.Res.70 - the Budget Resolution, at 11:45 this morning. The procedural posture is funny, the Senate amended the bill, sent it back to the House, and now, before the House votes, the Senate will vote as though the House has agreed to the Senate amendment.

If the House doesn't agree by June 17th, the Senate vote will be vitiated. I'm picturing Marvin the Martian wielding a vote-vitiator.


Otherwise, the Senate will pick up the Captain Trade bill -- It'll be interesting to see if the GOP and DEM parties have negotiated an agreement relating to the scope and number of amendments.

I expect the ultimate disposition of this bill to be "set aside for failure to obtain cloture" on either the underlying bill, or some deal-breaker amendment.


Senator Smith has a competitor that makes his "legislation will change hearts and minds" wishful thinking look positively grounded.

I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.

I'm torn between hysterical laughter and puking, at that tripe.


Pentagon statements on replacement of war court judge

"The decision not to extend Colonel Brownback's recall orders for a fifth year was made by the Army in February 2008. It is my understanding that this decision was based on a number of manpower management considerations unrelated to the Military Commissions process. ..."

One of Brownback's "pain in the rear" rulings (that his Military Tribunal was not competent, as a matter of law, to find a person to be an unlawful enemy combatant) was rendered in 2007.


12:13: S.Con.Res.70 - the budget resolution, was PASSED on a 48-45 vote.


12:25: Now comes speculation, from Senator Domenici, that Senator Reid may be planning to "fill the tree" on the Captain Trade bill. That's one of several methods of causing a failed cloture motion and disposing of the bill by early next week.

12:49: The motion to proceed is agreed to on UC. The bill is laid before the Senate. Boxer S.Amdt.4825 (a substitute) is proposed, and the clerk started reading it. Senator Reid made a (routine) motion to waive the reading, and Senator McConnell objected. The clerk is reading. No telling how long this will go. A second motion to waive the reading, and the objection is renewed.

Senators Lieberman, Warner and Reid conferenced (sometimes animated with arms) for 5 minutes or so. The clerk is reading to a mostly empty chamber.

I assume this is GOP reaction to a plan for filling the amendment tree, rather than being retaliation for not moving judicial nominations or some other perceived slight.

I'd link to the text of the amendment, so we could all read along, but the amendment wasn't offered to the Senate until this morning, maybe not even until just now. As of 13:01, the clerk hasn't even completed reading the table of contents (Title and Section numbers and short names).

13:11: Senator Boxer asks to waive the reading. Senator Cornyn objects, he says because the bill is 497 pages of new material. Senator Boxer is riled, says the material is known to the Senate, and repeats her request for consent to dispense with the reading. Senator Cornyn asks for regular order, and the presiding officer (Senator Menendez) orders the clerk to resume reading.

14:11: The Senate clerks have been working in shifts to read the bill. I like the music of quorum calls better.

15:07: Senator Lieberman asks consent to dispense with the reading, and objection is heard. Senator Boxer tries again. "This bill will save the planet and will make the US energy independent." Senator Allard objects. Back to reading.

15:55: GOP halts Senate over Bush nominee - Stephen Dinan (WaTimes)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made good on his promise of retribution against Democrats for their slow pace in confirming judicial nominees by bringing the Senate to a halt Wednesday. He forced a clerk to read every word of the 491-page global warming bill.

Well, if this particular delay is over judicial nominations, Senator McConnell has done a poor job of expressing that "cause and effect" association. But this from Bench Memos on National Review Online indicates that Senator McConnell today renewed the general threat of "consequences" for not acting on judicial nominations.

17:22: Still reading. I haven't noticed any additional interruptions. But this is pure waste. There are no Senators in the Senate, other than the chair-warmer who is "presiding."

18:23: Still reading. Senate Republicans 'Slow-Walk' Global Warming Measure - CongressDaily

The full reading of the bill may take at least four hours, a spokesman for Majority Leader Reid said. ... Reid's spokesman said there may be an announcement today on whether Democratic and Republican leaders will be able to reach an accord on limiting amendments to the bill. ... A lobbyist closely following the talks said Reid today will "fill the amendment tree," ...

I'll pick "fill the tree" for $800, Alex. This bill isn't going to go anywhere. The clerk is getting punchy ... almost giggling through the "kick start program" parts of the proposed legislation.

19:50: The clerks are still reading. Seven hours elapsed.

Mom, will you read me a bedtime story? Not tonight, dear.

20:01: Senator Salazar asks UC to dispense with the reading. Senator Corker objects. Senator Salazar asks the chair, a parliamentary inquiry, if it is in order to ask a question of the Republican Senator. "No," comes the answer, "regular order is reading of the bill." Senator Corker asks for regular order.

20:53: Eight hours of reading elapsed. I wonder what the record is? At least this isn't nothing but tax code.

21:45: Done reading. Back to whining.

21:50: Senator Reid initiates a "hot" quorum call," moving to instruct the Sergeant at Arms to request the presence of senators in order to obtain a quorum.

00:18: After agreeing to break a bit of the logjam over nominees, the Senate confirmed many of the non-judicial nominees, including the HUD nomination particularly mentioned by President Bush, arranged resumption of debate on Captain Trade, and adjourned until 9:30 later this morning.

Read the commentary at for more on "the deal." Heh. Such a deal. Hint ... "the deal" doesn't involve Circuit Court nominations.

Congressional Record of heated discussion over Captain Trade and nominations (Page S5021, et seq).

McConnell: With regard to the notion that somehow everybody had a chance to look at this bill, we got it at 11:15 this morning--the substitute at 11:15 this morning.

Reid: the substitute has been around for 2 weeks. The summary has been around. Anyone who had a question about this, all they had to do was call Senator Boxer, Senator Lieberman, or Senator Warner. They know this bill upside and downside. So to say they just got it today, that is how we do things here; the summary has been around a couple of weeks. Anyone who wanted to see the guts of the bill could look at it.


Reid: Republicans on the Judiciary Committee objected to expedited consideration of the Michigan nominees. One of them had already been approved to be a Federal district court judge ... already had an ABA approval of high ranking, high approval. They said: No, we want the ABA findings again before we are allowed to do anything. As a result, it was impossible to have the Senate consider these two additional nominees before the recess, despite my best efforts. ...

Leahy: I was wondering what was going on until I read in the Washington Times the Republican fixation on judges is part of an effort to bolster Senator John McCain's standing among conservatives--which is unfortunate; to bring in the judiciary, the independent Federal judiciary, and make them a political tool. ...


Mr. REID. Mr. President, I try to be a very patient man. I know my friend [Senator Sessions], whom I complimented publicly on the floor, didn't mean what he said this morning about me.

I am sure if that were brought to his attention, he would ask that to be taken from the Record because it is in violation of the rules; basically, that I was clueless. I am sure he did not mean that, but that is what he said. And people said it is a violation of rule XIX.

I say first to my friend from Alabama, he said that. Was it something he did not really mean, that I was clueless? Because that is an insult. I would ask my friend, did you really mean that I was clueless?

Mr. SESSIONS. If I was violating a rule or saying anything to insult the majority leader, I would apologize because I do respect the majority leader. He always treated me fairly, as I think he does most people in the Senate. I think he is so recognized. [as clueless!]


Mr. McCONNELL. I think we are close to an understanding here that allows us to clear this [non-judicial] nominations package. You have your chairman here, and I am authorized to speak for the ranking member [Specter] on this issue.

Did the majority leader say, in consultation with his chairman, that we could expect to schedule these votes within the next week or so on these noncontroversial district court judges?

Mr. REID. That is what I said.

Mr. McCONNELL. Then I think we have reached an understanding

On the subject of "clueless" Senator Reid, see Page S4998 ...

On Monday, my good friend, Senator Reid, the Democratic leader--and I do admire him, and he has a tough job, there is no doubt about it. I know he can't make everybody happy--seemed hurt Monday that the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said bringing this bill up demonstrated he was out of touch. Well, I say that is maybe too nice a term. Maybe "clueless" would have been a legitimate term. Senator Reid is such a wonderful guy. He comes from Searchlight, NV. I suggest he go back to Searchlight and talk to real people. What are they going to say, that they want us to raise prices of gasoline? Give me a break. They are not going to tell him that in Searchlight, just as they didn't tell me in Alabama to come here and pass higher taxes on gasoline, to create bureaucracies the likes of which we have never seen, to create high energy prices, to drive up the price of energy by this complex, sneaky cap-and-trade tax system that the Wall Street Journal calls the greatest wealth transfer since the income tax, or to create a bureaucracy that is going to monitor this complexity throughout the country.

June 5

According to the legislative calendar, Captain Trade and the Boxer Amendment is not still pending. But as Senator McConnell (accurately) summarized last night, "[the Senate] is in the position, with the tree being filled tonight and with cloture being filed, to have this massive, significant bill in effect voted on without any amendments."

A pair of UC agreements summarize plans for today, while S.3036 stews in the cloture motion/cloture vote delay:

  • Upon the conclusion of Morning Business, resume consideration of the motion to proceed to S.3044, a bill to provide energy price relief, hold oil companies accountable for their actions with regard to high energy prices, and for other purposes. (Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008)
  • At 4:00 p.m., proceed to the consideration of H.R.6124, the part of the "farm bill" that Congress forgot to send to President Bush after it passed H.R.2419. The missing piece gets an agreed one hour of debate followed by a vote on passage

The Congress is going to hold oil companies accountable for energy prices? The arrogant lying bastards [Congress] need to be held accountable for that, themselves.

A somewhat interesting procedural move, in that Senator Reid propounded and filed a cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.3044, then the cloture motion (on the motion to proceed) was withdrawn. Still, the Senate has not agreed to proceed to the bill.

S.3044 includes a windfall profits tax, the NOPEC scheme, empowers the president to declare an "energy emergency" in the framework of disaster relief legislation, orders an indefinite but "substantial" increase in margin allowance for futures trading, and is generally stupid legislation (in my opinion).


09:47: The debates over the pace of nominations and procedural posture of the Captain Trade bill continue, in fairly predictable form. Action on nominations will include three District Court nominations, two more Circuit Court nominations to emerge from the Judiciary Committee, and whatever additional (three at most, could be zero) Circuit Court nominations the GOP manages to squeeze out of recalcitrant and unrepentant Democrats.

09:52: Senator Durbin is crying in his corn flakes, over Republican obstruction to legislation on the critically important issue of saving the planet from the sta-puft marshmallow man. He's also echoing Obamamessiah's campaign slogan, "change."

The particular issue of ANWR is brought up, and rejected by Senator Durbin, speaking for the Democrats. And the Democrats honestly think the public is as clueless as Senator Reid is? Well, sad to say, they are probably right on that.

09:58: Senator Enzi's tribute to Senator Thomas is showing a bit of temper. He's calling out the Democrats for failure to deliver on commitments, and on legislating outside of the committee process.

10:51: Senator Specter on the subject of confirmations, he refers to the current situation as "gridlock." He doesn't offer any solution, other than his opinion that qualified nominees ought to be moved to the floor and voted on. He goes on to complaining about the tree being filled on the Captain Trade bill, and notes that the bill will not obtain cloture, as long as amendment process is restricted. He also has entered into the record, some statement about the NFL and the New England Patriots rule-breaking taping of opposition strategizing.


11:35: Senator Murray goes off on the subject of the Pentagon giving Airbus the contract for next generation carbon-releasing refueling aircraft, instead of to Boeing. She says the legislated GAO review is inadequate, because it's limited to reviewing if the contracting procedures were followed and don't require it to reach a subjective conclusion as to which contractor choice is "better."

She wonders why, if the US is suing Airbus in the Court of World Trade for unfair business practices, why then would the US buy from that same company? The answer to that is obvious - unfair business practices in the form of tax-payer subsidy result in a LOWER PRICE.

Plus, IIRC, Boeing is also being sued by the US for cheating on contracts. So, same question, why buy from Boeing? Short answer -- who's suing over which business practices should NOT be a heavily-weighted factor in making a tanker-builder decision. The suits stand independently.

I think that Boeing is the better choice - but Congress is being stupid by trying to force others to reach that conclusion with tangential legislation, like GAO studies; and tangential arguments, like "contractors cheat" or "contractors take government subsidies."


12:04: Morning business is over, the motion to proceed to S.3044 is the business of the Senate. S.3044 is not pending.


13:58: An exchange between Senators Reid and McConnell on S.3036, where Senator McConnell sought to have the amendment tree taken down so a gas-price amendment could be offered. Senator Reid objects, notes that Senator McConnell has objected to committee meetings, and that a gas-price bill will be subjected to a cloture vote tomorrow.

Senator McConnell reclaims the floor, and asks that his proposed amendment to appear in the record, and says he is sorry this amendment couldn't be taken up, debated and voted on.

14:09: Senator Reid says that the introduction of judicial nominations to the global warming debate is a diversion. He then goes on to make a generally political speech comparing the inaction on global warming under President Bush with the serious action now being advocated by the Democrats.


17:37: H.R.6124, the missing part of "the farm bill," was PASSED on a 77-15 vote. (veto-proof)

Senator Reid says the cloture vote on the global warming "Captain Trade" bill will be conducted as early as possible tomorrow, 9:00 a.m., and Monday is a no-vote day.

19:33: Senator Lautenberg closing down the Senate.

S.2482 - to repeal the provision of title 46, United States Code, requiring a license for employment in the business of salvaging on the coast of Florida - Passed
H.R.3913 to allow private entities to lease certain property at the International Chancery Center (ICC)--a parcel of land in Washington, D.C., owned by the Federal Government - Passed
H.Con.Res.311 - soap box derby - Passed
S.Res.586 U.AZ. Women's softball congrats - Passed
H.J.Res.92 increasing statutory debt limit, read the first time

19:38: Adjourned until 9:00 a.m., with an IMMEDIATE vote on the cloture motion to limit debate on Boxer S.Amdt.4825 to S.3036 - Captain Trade. Then to a second cloture vote, to limit debate on the motion to proceed to the DEM-proposed gas-price-increase bill, S.3044.

June 6

The cloture motion to limit debate on Boxer S.Amdt.4825 to S.3036 - Save the planet, was REJECTED on a 48-36 vote.

Senator Boxer read a message from Senator Clinton yesterday, conveying Senator Clinton's regret, in advance, of not being able to make it to the Senate in order to vote on this specific item. Excuse me, but Senator Clinton was reported to have been in DC last night. Not that it would have made a difference in the vote, but it guts Senator Reid's criticism of Senator McCain for not voting.


If you are a football fan (I'm not much of one), this is positive MUST READ material. Senator Specter is mad as hell at how the NFL has "handled" the New England Patriots rules violations, vis-a-vis stealing opponents defensive play signaling.

Senator Specter on the NFL


11:42: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is making a speech on secret OLC legal opinions relating to the exercise of executive power to surveil persons on US soil, without judicial oversight.

I find the administration's legal arguments on this subject to be laughable, and that's a charitable slant. Senator Whitehouse has a vastly superior constitutional argument here.


13:08: Senator Nelson (FL) starts the wind-down for the weekend. S.Res.588 is passed, H.J.Res.92 (statutory debt limit increase to 10.6 trillion dollars) is read a second time, and S.3098 (IRS code extensions) is read a first time. Quorum call ....

Text of S.3098, non-contentious date extensions of quite a few IRS code provisions, including the AMT and energy write-downs.


14:05: After several minutes of introduction, Senator Reid filed a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to S.3044, a bill to provide energy price relief, hold oil companies accountable for their actions with regard to high energy prices, and for other purposes. (Consumer-FirstLast Energy Act of 2008).

The cloture vote will occur Tuesday morning. Senator Reid says that if the GOP doesn't agree to THIS meddling in the energy market, then the GOP is responsible for high energy prices. I ask, why don't the Democrats just openly advocate outright nationalizing of the energy industries?

There is no Republican Senator on the floor.

Senator Reid also moved to proceed to H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, pretended he received a GOP objection, and filed a cloture motion on the motion to proceed to H.R.6049. This cloture vote will also happen on Tuesday, conditioned on rejection of cloture on the motion to proceed to S.3044. That is, if cloture is obtained on the motion to proceed to S.3044, then the cloture motion on H.R.6049 will be withdrawn.

House Report 110-658 on H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008

14:08: The Senate stands adjourned until 3:15 Monday, at which time it will resume the motion to proceed to S.3044 - the Consumer-FirstLast Energy Act of 2008.

June 9

A no-vote day, as the Senate debates whether or not to proceed to S.3044, Consumer-FirstLast Energy Act of 2008, and/or H.R.6049, Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008. Neither bill is pending.

15:30: Not much in the way of procedural news. Senator Specter is railing against the practice of "filling the tree," and notes that last week the Senate wasted a week dealing with a subject that was destined to be dropped on a procedural motion. He goes on to note other cases where "filling the tree" was done with the sole purpose of providing a venue for political talking points. He cites a CRS study that counts the number of instances of "filling the tree." Senator Reid is the winner by a nose, with 12 invocations. Senator Frist is a close second, with 9.

15:48: Senator Specter says the Senate may be viewed as "moribund," as a result of the tendency of majority leaders of both parties to use procedural shenanigans.

The facts show that the Senate is realistically dysfunctional. It is on life support, perhaps even moribund.

16:59: Senator Reid sets up a set of three confirmation votes on judicial nominees tomorrow morning, to follow the cloture vote (or votes) on the energy bill(s). He then asks to return Captain Trade (S.3036) to the calendar (make it no longer formally pending), but that move is met with Republican objection.

The three District Court nominations to be voted on are:
Mark S. Davis - E. Dist. Virginia
David Gregory Kays - W. Dist. Missouri
Stephen N. Limbaugh - E. Dist. Missouri

All three were voted out of Committee on April 24, 2008.

18:39: The Senate stands adjourned until 10:00 a.m. Tuesday.

June 10

It's not just Senate legislating that sucks pond water: "Senate Votes To Privatize Its Failing Restaurants" - (WaTimes)

In a masterful bit of understatement, Feinstein blamed "noticeably subpar" food and service.

The employees have generous options going forward. (Text of S.2967)


If cloture is invoked on the motion to proceed to H.R.6049, Senator Baucus will replace the House bill with a substitute amendment that includes a "patch" to the trigger for applying the Alternative Minimum Tax. Text at "Placed on Calendar in Senate" - H.R.6049.PCS


Kucinich's 35 Proposed articles of Impeachment against President Bush.


Commenting on an article in the NYT, which I take as a sign that FISA may become topical after a few months of Congressional inaction, Marty Lederman writes: What the FISA Debate is Not About.


10:30: No surprises in opening remarks, and the energy debate takes on predictable form. The Republicans want to prospect for and develop mineral resources in the US, and the DEMs say "no" because a) it won't help NOW, and b) the US has insufficient mineral wealth to support itself, if and when the exploitation were to come online.

The DEM solution is to impose oversight and profit limits on energy companies, and to SUE foreign energy producers into price submission. Plenty of people are persuaded to prefer the DEM solution; generally on environmental and climatological bases, as well as on a preference toward high energy prices (but no private profit) as a means to reduce energy consumption.

11:09: Senator Domenici made a routine request to use leader time to make a point before the Senate moves to rejecting cloture on the "Consumer-First" Energy Act of 2008, and was met with DEM objection. He uses his remaining (four minutes) of minority time instead.

I'm wondering how Landrieu [NAY], Salazar [AYE] and Specter [NAY] will vote on proceeding to this bill. At any rate, it doesn't stand a chance of getting the 60 votes it needs to be picked up, and suspect it may be unable to obtain even 50 votes.

Senator McCaskill is saying that she is feeling pressure, due to the cost of energy. She's been successful at blaming PROFIT as the cause. She wonders why the energy companies don't invest in refinery capacity. Chutzpah. And then, that oil companies take out full page spreads in the New York Times as PR moves. Maybe Congress should make it ILLEGAL for energy companies to advertise. It's already illegal to advocate against politicians (see McCain-Feingold). Would save lots of money, and have the beneficial side effect of negatively impacting NYT revenues.

11:25 - 11:52: The cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.3044 - Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, was REJECTED on a 51-43 vote. (predicted 51-44 rejection)
GOP Aye votes: Coleman, Collins, Grassley(!), Smith, Snowe, Warner

Senator Reid changed his vote to NAY so as to be able to enter a motion to reconsider. A more accurate accounting of the above outcome would be 52-42.

Warner has really fallen for the environmental / climatological "BOO!" Coleman, Collins, Smith and Snowe's votes aren't surprising in the least. Smith may even figure that a suitable change of hearts and minds will cause positive results as to the environment and climate.


On H.R.6049, Senator Grassley asks Republicans to NOT vote for cloture on the motion to proceed, because the bill is loaded up with too many subjects (e.g., Davis-Bacon labor). I have no educated prediction as to how this vote will come out.

11:58 - 12:14: The 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.

With the failure to limit debate on proceeding to these two bills, Senator Reid is going to have to either modify the bills so the Republicans will agree to take them up, or choose something else altogether.


The next vote is on the confirmation of Mark S. Davis to be a federal District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia. I suspect this vote (and the two other judicial nominations) will be unanimous.

12:20: Senator Specter reiterates his complaint against the parliamentary practice of "filling the tree." He indicates that he filed a proposal for a rules change, in 2007. Senator Leahy speaks on the subject at hand, that of three specific judicial nominees, and says that all the delay in obtaining votes for nominees is the fault of the Republicans.

12:24: Senator Leahy moves off the subject of nominees, and blames the Republicans for failing to advance the Democratic legislation that would reduce energy prices.

Senator Warner notes that the nominee is an ex-staffer of his, and that other staffers should take note, that if they too play their cards right, they can obtain a judicial nomination -- hint, being in good political graces can result in being placed on the short list of "suitable nominees" submitted to the president, BY the senators!

12:47: Mark S. Davis is confirmed on a 94-0 vote and the other two judicial nominations are confirmed on voice vote with two, maybe three Senators in the chamber. After that, this brief exchange:

Senator Brown: "I suggest the absence of a quorum."
Senator Tester: (in the chair, grinning, says forcefully) "No." (then fairly flatly, but still smiling) "Under the previous order, the Senate stands in recess." (slaps the gavel smartly to the desk and briskly rises to depart)


14:17: C-SPAN2 came into the Senate a bit late, but in time to catch Senator Reid recess the Senate in order to permit the Judiciary Committee hearing on US interrogation tactics to continue over GOP refusal to grant consent to waive the "no hearing after the Senate has been in session for two hours" rule (Rule XXVI (5)(a)).

Reid asked for UC to go into recess subject to the call of the chair, and no Republican objected.

14:19: The Senate stands in recess, until the hearing on interrogation tactics is completed. When the Senate comes back in, Senator Reid intends the debate to be on the subject of gasoline prices.

The subject hearing appears to be one-sided, in that all the speakers see NO justification for "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Glenn A. Fine, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice: the FBI should be credited for generally avoiding participation in detainee abuse.

Valerie E. Caproni, General Counsel, Federal Bureau of Investigation: All allegations of detainee mistreatment during the course of interrogations were reviewed by FBI Headquarters and referred to the appropriate agency for investigation.

John E. Cloonan, Retired FBI Special Agent: my heart tells me that torture and all forms of excessive coercion are inhumane and un-American, and my experience tells me that they just don’t work.

Phillipe Sands QC, Professor of Laws, University College London: Coercive interrogation, aggression and torture must never be institutionalised: once the door is open it is difficult to close

Senator Leahy: One of the great tragedies of this issue is that the coercive techniques this administration was so determined to use are in fact not more effective.

Senator Feingold: I was also disappointed that senior officials at the FBI and Justice Department who learned what military and CIA interrogators were doing did not – or could not – do more to stop it.

15:30: Feinstein's hearing on interrogation techniques has concluded, and the Senate has reopened. Senator Lincoln asserts that the Democrat bills would certainly have reduced the price of gasoline. She said that Americans NEED the Senate, in order to have a growing economy.

Her argument is that tax incentives (which reflect the infinite wisdom of the Senate) are the cure, using wind energy as the industry she prefers to subsidize with tax incentives. I submit that a level tax scheme will let the market figure out which source(s) of energy are most cost efficient.

Then she turns around and advocates federal subsidy for child care, which encourages parents to leave their children in the care of strangers while both parents go off to work.



Feingold and Dodd, who led the fight in the Senate against the immunity provision and other provisions containing overbroad, unchecked powers for the executive branch, wrote the following letter amidst reports that negotiations on FISA legislation may be nearing completion in the House.

Just to reiterate, fresh FISA action can be initiated by either chamber of Congress. The fact that the Senate is in possession of the ONLY "back and forth" between the two chambers, H.R.3773, does not mean that renewed action will pick up where it left off under that bill number.

Notice too, there has NOT been a House/Senate conference. That's because the legislative positions can't be reconciled by compromise. One side or the other will eventually capitulate. I believe that the administration will get everything it asserts it needs. Senators Dodd and Feingold might as well piss into a fan (again).


16:37: Senator Boxer says those who deny that global warming is caused by human activity are like people who insist the earth is flat, and others who insist that smoking is a harmless activity. She also says that the Democrat windfall profit tax, etc. would reduce the cost of gasoline.

She is also saying the Republicans are the party of "status quo." That label works on both sides. Democrats are "status quo" when it comes to domestic exploration and extraction (e.g., ANWR and the continental shelf), GOP is status quo when it comes to policies that IT favors. Just saying, "you are for status quo" is a stupid insult, since it swings both ways.

17:10: Senator Sessions makes a point on the NOPEC proposal (where OPEC can be sued in the US for failure to produce sufficient oil). He says, "Can they sue the US for not drilling in ANWR? Maybe they should sue Congress." LOL.

Hey, I don't like the price that OPEC sets, any more than the next buyer does. But I have to admit, it is THEIR oil. Well, it is until the almighty Senate takes over OPEC.

17:22: Senator Vitter's turn in the barrel, he is comparing the Senate to Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

He notes that oil company profits, as a percentage of sales, is comparable (at 8.3%) to the profit margin of US manufacturing as a whole (7.3%, or, if the automotive industries are excluded from the average, 8.9%) and that the participants in the profit includes mutual funds and other investors.

Hey - President Nixon instituted wage and price controls. Let's try that again! It'll work if a Democrat does it, I'm sure that's true.

Senator Vitter also outlines his general proposal to permit oil exploration offshore if the price of gasoline hits $5.00 per gallon, and the "host" state agrees. As a carrot, he reminds the listener that the government gets a 37% royalty from the oil company. Yep, the higher the price of crude oil, the greater the revenue to the government!

17:36: Senator Barrasso's turn, and his angle is "clean coal." He has proposed an amendment to the Captain Trade (I know, it's "cap and trade") that would encourage the exploitation of domestic coal resources.

I'm about ready to take an ethanol break. Better that than a methane break.


18:24: Senator Reid withdraws the motion to proceed to S.3044. He's going to re-introduce this motion after attempting to move to a different bill.

He moves to proceed to S.3101 - to improve beneficiary access to preventive and mental health services ("Medicare" for short), is met with objection, and files a cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.3101 ("Medicare"). That cloture vote, if conducted on schedule, will occur Thursday morning.

Senator Reid re-enters the motion to proceed to S.3044 - Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008, and Senator Stabenow resumes her speech bemoaning GOP obstruction of the DEM "guaranteed to work" solutions to the energy, employment, and other assorted crises. She wants to increase taxpayer outlay for unemployment while simultaneously raising taxes on employers. She wonders why Republicans are reluctant to join hands and sing Kumbaya.

She has that tired chart that enumerates "75 and counting instances of GOP filibuster." That statistic is meaningless outside of context. What was the content of each bill that the GOP refused to take up? I can imagine mirror-image content where DEMs would persistently refuse to engage in debate. The fact that Senator Reid hasn't offered a bill that is amenable to negotiation is a reflection of HIS choices. "Objection" isn't something that happens in a vacuum.


18:52: Senator Grassley is explaining why he voted to limit debate on S.3044 - Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008. It's because he supports NOPEC. Well, bully for him, but NOPEC is, IMO, profoundly arrogant and stupid. Sue 'em in the World Court (yes, there is a World Trade Court), but setting up a plan to sue other countries in US courts, for the price they set for selling their property, is, well, arrogant and stupid.

To his credit, he's against windfall profits tax (either less is produced, or the tax is passed on to the customer) and other aspects of the bill.


19:33: The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. The Senate will remain on the motion to proceed to S.3044 - Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008.

I confess that I was watching baseball, and don't know what (if any) agreements were reached as far as amendments, substitutes, etc., but I did catch that agreement was reached as far as control of the floor, with 30 minute blocks of time alternating between Democrats and Republicans for four hours time period, followed by 10 minute slots.

June 11

An example that makes a point I've stated here periodically, the fact that cloture was not obtained on the motion to proceed to S.3044 does not mean the matter is "dead." It means the Senate did not agree to limit debate. As a practical matter, it may or may not be "dead," depending on its contents and a separate decision by the Senate to turn to something else.

I think the DEM strategy at this point is to stay on the bill, and sell the public on the story that but for GOP objection to this bill, gasoline prices would be lower.

There's a cloture vote tomorrow morning on taking up a Medicaid bill. Between that subject and the several energy/environment bills still under consideration, it seems the window of time available this week is too small to admit debate on other (new) bills.

Anyway, on S.3044, the substantive debate points have already been made, so today's debate will be repetitious. "Can't drill our way out of energy dependence" vs. "Can't will (or tax) our way out of energy dependence."

The WH policy statement contains numerous "the President's senior advisors would recommend that the president veto the bill."

The House-passed version is H.R.6074 - Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act of 2008.

The WH policy statement also recites "veto recommended" as to the NOPEC scheme.

Some further reading about the oil market. Caveat emptor ...

History and Analysis - Crude Oil Prices
Crude Oil Price Forecast


10:01: Senator Reid's opening is generally on the subject of energy prices, and he does not disclose any legislative plans other than beating S.3044 to death and conducting the cloture vote on S.3101 ("Medicaid") tomorrow morning.

He lays the blame for the price of energy at President Bush's and the Republicans' feet, and notes that the airline industry is affected by the price of jet fuel. He says the European airlines pay less for jetfuel because they pay in Euros, but American airlines have to use dollars. Say what?

He repeats the same claim/promise that DEM legislation WILL reduce the price of fuel to the consumer, and notes that the NOPEC scheme has bi-partisan support. Well, yeah, there are idiots in both parties.

Then he notes that the small margins in the oil futures market ARE, in FACT, causing a substantial and broad price increase due to speculative trading activity. I find that hard to believe. I believe there are cheaters and manipulators, I just don't think they have THAT much influence.

He says "we can't produce our way out of the problem," as though domestic production is an all or nothing proposition. He segues into global warming, and at least admits that he holds that the US needs to use less fuel in order to reduce carbon emission. Now this sets up competing and conflicting objectives: cheap oil vs. reduction in oil consumption.

Moving on to the price of food, fertilizer (and I'd add, the cost of transport to market) as being impacted by the cost of energy, he closes on the general observation that "Houston, we have a problem."

Senator McConnell takes the opposite position, advocating for an increase in domestic production and in general encouraging oil/energy companies to "get busy," with profit motive being a strong incentive.

He says this is the most important issue in the country today (but tomorrow, FISA or something else will take that spot) and that public sentiment favors the "increase domestic production" position being advocated by the Republicans, over the "tax and investigate" position.

On a separate subject, Senator McConnell will propound a UC agreement to call up S.3098, which is a one year AMT extender. He roughly describes the difference between this bill, and the H.R.6049 bill that the DEMs tried to move yesterday. Senator Reid objected, calling the move "Orwellian." "What the person is saying, they mean the direct opposite. The GOP should agree to take up H.R.6049 and amend it."

Senator Reid segues back to the subject of energy. "We can't produce our way out of high energy prices." "The way out of this problem is to move to alternative energy." Umm, that happens, naturally, as the prices of various forms of energy fluctuate. The market moves to lower cost options.

"We put velcro on the numbers" so we can count the number of Republican filibusters. He claims that President Bush and Senator McCain haven't been talking about the energy price issue.

Senator McConnell rebuts the "GOP refuses to debate and legislate" charge with "DEMs cut off the right to participate in legislating by filling the tree."

Hehe -- "the lunacy of taking OPEC to court. They might retaliate with reduced production."

Back to Senator Reid - "McConnell's statement about the LA Times editorial is as Orwellian as his statement that the GOP wants to participate in the legislative process." He reads more from the same LA Times editorial, "The Republicans are short on good ideas - the GOP proposal to drill in ANWR results in insignificant price reductions, and those are 25 years in the future."

Senator McConnell notes that the LA Times was critical of both parties. And as to which party is limiting the right to legislate, the DEMs are asserting a high degree of control (in fact, the DEMs have COMPLETE control) over what amendments and bills will be permitted to come up for vote.

My sense is that 30-60% of the public thinks Senator Reid has the better argument here. I respectfully disagree, and utterly reject Senator Reid's repetitive claims that the GOP is responsible for the slow pace of legislative action in the Senate.


Senator Murray on the Air Force award of a tanker contract to Airbus instead of Boeing. She doesn't think it's right to buy products whose price has been reduced by subsidy from EU countries.


Found in this post at (H/T to ...

In this morning’s session of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican members invoked Rule XXVI, aka "the two-hour rule” to cut short the first of a series of hearings on the importance of the United States Supreme Court


Steven Aftergood at FAS has a post on the Bill Gertz subpoena: "Reporter Bill Gertz Subpoenaed to Testify on Sources," which includes links to Gertz's June 5 motion to quash the subpoena.


14:55: Senator Dorgan describes that he had taught economics to college students, but that he recovered from the experience and went on to lead a productive life. If you are an econ professor, you've just been insulted. I did like this line: "Economics is psychology pumped up on helium."

He believes 20-40% of the current price of oil is based purely on speculation.

June 12

"Medicare" day? By UC, the Senate will take up the motion to proceed to S.3101 at 9:30 a.m., with the cloture vote on the motion to proceed being pushed out to 3:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Senator Grassley's S.3118 would be the GOP alternative, if Senator Reid would permit side-by-side competition for support. The bill is introduced by Senator Grassley at page S5526 of the Record.


Senators Coburn and Inhofe had some things to say about Congress, the Senate, energy prices, and the environment. See Page S5530-34, in yesterday's record.

COBURN: Last week, the majority leader, on the Senate floor, said the tornados that were in this area were related to climate change.

Like saying anecdotally we can prove there must be climate change because we saw tornadoes in the Washington, DC, area last week--do you know how many times there have been tornadoes in this month in Washington, DC, throughout the years? Hundreds. But now we are anecdotally, because we see something new to our experience, associating it with some phenomena. That is not science. That is ignorance. That is using science in a way that bastardizes it. ...

I get written to all the time by constituents from Oklahoma about gas prices. Do you know what I tell them? I say: You should blame us. You should blame the Congress. ...

INHOFE: Sooner or later we have to say who is at fault in terms of the increase. [list of specific bills and party-line votes snipped] ... I am saying this only to correct that one thing my junior Senator said, in that he was right, it is our fault, but this is strictly partisan. ...

I would even argue with some of the people who put in an analysis as to how much that bill we defeated last week would have increased the price of gas at the pump. They say 53 cents a gallon. ... that is assuming we would have 268 new nuclear plants. Now, the very people who are promoting this bill and want to stop us from drilling, from exploring for oil and for gas, are the same ones who are opposed to nuclear energy. So they say in that period of time, by 2030, the most nuclear plants we could have would be 64. I think everyone agrees with that, so instead of 268 new plants, there will be 64. So you could say that--if you use the same percentages--it would raise the price of gas by $2, not just 53 cents.


10:06: Senator Reid has S.3118 (The GOP alternative to the DEMs S.3101 "Medicare" proposal) read a second time, it will be on the calendar tomorrow, and available for a motion to proceed.

Senator McConnell goes on the subject of gasoline and diesel prices.

Senator Reid reiterates his charge of "Orwellian" in reference to McConnell's arguments. "The reason we aren't legislating is that the Republicans don't want to."

He takes a GOP memo that says "We [not sure what group this refers to] aren't going to get any legislating done on this bill - it'll just be playing political games." Senator Reid says "we" is a reference to the GOP, and "just playing games" is the Republican party describing asserting that it intends to play political games. OTOH, it could just as well have been a fairly "sterile" (non-partisan) prediction about the Senate as a whole.

They did not want to legislate, and we knew that was the case because as we read into the Record several times, there was a piece of work that came on e-mail from the Republicans who are devising the strategy for the Republicans in the Senate, and they said in that memo that there is no legislation going to take place here; we are going to play political games. "Political games" were their words, and that is what they did.

Senator Reid says high gas prices are President Bush's and the Republican Party's fault.

"I don't think the energy crisis is an oil company plot, I think it's a Bush-Cheney plot. They haven't done anything to keep the price of energy low."

"I'm not going to predict the outcome of the elections in November, but the DEMs are going to gain seats in the Senate."

Senator McConnell provides a surrebuttal, that Reid gave an interesting campaign speech; and that the way to legislate in the Senate is to freely permit amendments. He says the GOP is ready to amend the cap and trade bill - but that Senator Reid would rather have the GOP object to not being able to amend, so Reid can "check the box, add another filibuster, and move on."

McConnell would be willing to horse-trade NOPEC for legislation that permitted states to allow drilling the outer continental shelf. The general point being that there is room for serious negotiation, give and take.

He says he like Reid, that they are friends, and that he hopes the two of them can get past making campaign speeches and get to the work of legislating.

Senator Reid is irked. He says "no one is confused" about which side is obstructing. He goes on to defend NOPEC and that Senator McConnell out to tell Arlen Specter (and Grassley) that NOPEC is ludicrous.

I have advice for Senator Reid - he should temper his confidence as to which party will get the blame for not moving legislation forward.


SCOTUS hands down decision in the Boumediene and Munaf cases. I'm skimming through the Boumediene case now. Links to the opinions at HowAppealing, and a brief summary at ScotusBlog, Court gives detainees habeas rights.

This will suck alot of the wind available for news in general, and is sure to stoke partisan rancor. My point of view is that this ought to be a non-partisan issue, and that both the administration and Congress over-reached on a process that is fundamentally flawed. At some point, that has to be addressed - there is never a good time to do so, and it's sad that both the administration and Congress bolluxed the issue so badly. In an alternative universe, SCOTUS would have upheld fair and transparent procedures. and the results therefrom.

12:35: Senator Dorgan makes passing mention of the Boumediene decision. The relative positions (i.e., how the senators characterize the Supreme Court's ruling) here will follow the votes for and against the MCA.

Senate by Cboldt: Establishing Military Commissions
Sept 28, 2006

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

Something as important as this, that's been kicked around for 5 years, should not result in a bright-line party-line vote. As for Congress, each side will blame the other for the split being partisan. I have a sense that the GOP just gave the president what he asked for, and the Congress as a whole punted the details to the lawyers and the courts, to be sorted out later.

Well, now it's later, and the sorting out process will start. But count on this, "each side will blame the other." I am disgusted, and Congress should be ashamed (but it's not).

13:01: Senator Leahy makes a trip to the floor to talk directly on the Boumediane case. Right away, "this administration has eroded habeas more than all other administrations in the history of the country ... and the Supreme Court has three times ruled against."

He has harsh and inflammatory criticism of the administration, but Congress is #1 in the mix here, not the president. Congress has the primary responsibility - and Congress should be hanging its head and getting to work, not throwing stones.


14:41: Senator Gregg notes, with incredulity, that the Senate is being asked to proceed to consider a bill where the operative amounts of money to be spent are literally BLANK spaces, such that the GAO is unable to score the bill. Now I don't care who you are, that's funny.

If this cloture vote goes on party line, cloture will be rejected.

Senator McConnell seeks UC to take up a motion to proceed to S.3118, with a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to be conducted immediately following the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to S.3101, but only if cloture is REJECTED on S.3101.

Senator Reid asks "Why can't we just move to S.3101?" and objects.

Senator Reid says at least one Republican will vote for cloture on the DEMs Medicaid bill, having been promised by Senator Reid that the DEMs would permit an open amendment process. This same Republican Senator says there is a substantial frustration in the Republican caucus at the multitude of rejections of limiting debate on motions to proceed.

Senators Boxer and Reid enter a brief colloquy, "Wouldn't this be the third bill in a row that the Republicans have objected to proceeding to?" Why yes, it would be. Cap 'n' Trade; Ream the Oil Companies / NOPEC; and now the "Medicaid" bill.

14:59 - 15:31: The cloture motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to S.3101 - Medicare, was REJECTED on a 54-39 vote. (predicted 50-44 rejection)
GOP AYE Votes: Coleman, Collins, Dole, Murkowski, Roberts, Smith, Snowe, Specter (I think he's the frustrated Senator that Reid referred to) and Stevens

Senator Reid changed his vote to NAY so he could enter a motion to reconsider. There would have been 55 AYE votes had he not moved to reconsider this vote.

Senator Reid withdrew the motion to proceed to S.3101, and moved to proceed to H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008. It's ground hog day! The Senate rejected a motion to limit debate on the motion to proceed to this bill, just two days ago.


16:13: Senator Corker Casey is talking about the administration's negotiation of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, and the administration's refusal to submit drafts to Congress for informational purposes.


17:40: Senators Feinstein and Hatch speak on the Boumediene decision, predictably taking opposite sides. Hatch presupposes the detainees ARE terrorists, hence justifying whatever diminution or deviation in process.


19:49: WEEKEND! The second cloture vote on proceeding to H.R.6049 - Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, is scheduled for Monday evening at 5:30 p.m. The Senate stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. Monday.

H.R.5749 - Emergency Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008, is "on the horizon."

June 13

Some FISA rumblings ...

"Agreement Could Pave Way for Surveillance Overhaul" - Tim Starks (CQ)

Congressional leaders and the Bush administration have reached an agreement in principle on an overhaul of surveillance rules ... did not expect a final agreement on the language before next week, when the House and Senate are now likely to vote on the overhaul.

"Lawmakers Near Deal On Surveillance Bill" - Carrie Johnson (WaPo)

Not updating the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could cause investigators to miss important clues to thwart terrorists, administration officials say. ...

Telephone and Internet service providers say they received written assurances that the warrantless wiretapping program was legal at the time they agreed to participate.

If the government provided written assurances in 2001-2005 (and later, before FISA was changed by the PAA in 2007) that the warrantless wiretapping orders were legal, and those assurances were sound, why couldn't the SAME assurances be produced NOW? Why should investigators miss ANY important clues if Congress fails to again update FISA?

And what's up with the "30 year-old" label? FISA was amendmed in 2001 by the USA PATRIOT Act, and by the Homeland Secrity Act of 2002. How about this formulation, "Not repealing the 219 year old Fourth Amendment to the Constitution could cause investigators to miss important clues to thwart terrorists."

I posted these comments elsewhere ...

My preference on the FISA [immunity] issue is that the courts and the executive do battle face to face, on “state secret” grounds. I don’t object to attempts to craft legislation that aims to track [the president's] Article II power, but I fear Congress is all [too] willing to pass legislation that crosses fourth amendment lines, as long as it (Congress) can pass the buck in the event of a terrorist hit. ...

It’s all about fooling the public. Hoyer didn’t come up with anything except smoke and mirrors, and those might have been suggested by the administration. [I.e., the proposed legislative language, which I expect to be convoluted and double-speak, could have come from the administration]

The rationale for immunity — “good faith” deviation by telecoms is “okay,” and disclosure of the scope of surveillance will tip off the terrorists — SHOULD result in an appeal for repeal of the civil and criminal penalties (50 USC 1809 and 1810).

Courts might pierce the charade at some point. That’s why I prefer the battle to be on the grounds of “state secret.” Congress is just a noisy rubberstamp for whichever way they think the wind is blowing. That is, Congress is utterly VOID of principle.


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