Category - USA: Congress

Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid will not seek re-election: NYT

Reuters, March 27

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid will not seek re-election next year, the New York Times reported on Friday.

Reid, who represents Nevada, told the newspaper that his decision to retire from the Senate was not due to a recent accident or his party’s loss of control of the chamber in the November congressional elections.

“I want to be able to go out at the top of my game,” Reid, 75, told the Times.

An obfuscatory reason were there ever one…

Obviously someone got to him. “This accident“, harumph.

Ted Cruz to announce presidential bid Monday

Houston Chronicle, By Theodore Schleifer, March 21

Senator will be first declared GOP candidate

Washington — Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington.

Cruz will launch a presidential bid outright rather than form an exploratory committee, said senior advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.

The senator is scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, where he is expected to declare his campaign for the presidency.
Read More

McConnell Urges States to Help Thwart Obama’s ‘War on Coal’

New York Times, By Coral Davenport, March 19

Washington — Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has begun an aggressive campaign to block President Obama’s climate change agenda in statehouses and courtrooms across the country, arenas far beyond Mr. McConnell’s official reach and authority.

The campaign of Mr. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is aimed at stopping a set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Once enacted, the rules could shutter hundreds of coal-fired plants in what Mr. Obama has promoted as a transformation of the nation’s energy economy away from fossil fuels and toward sources like wind and solar power. Mr. McConnell, whose home state is one of the nation’s largest coal producers, has vowed to fight the rules.

Since Mr. McConnell is limited in how he can use his role in the Senate to block regulations, he has taken the unusual step of reaching out to governors with a legal blueprint for them to follow to stop the rules in their states. Mr. McConnell’s Senate staff, led by his longtime senior energy adviser, Neil Chatterjee, is coordinating with lawyers and lobbying firms to try to ensure that the state plans are tangled up in legal delays.

Al Jazeera: A frenzy over fracking in Washington
NBC: California Governor Calls Out McConnell for Coal Letter – video; “…borderline immoral”

Trillion Dollar Fraudsters

New York Times, By Paul Krugman, March 20

By now it’s a Republican Party tradition: Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits, but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar “magic asterisk” — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spending, one on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.
Read More

Take a Deep Breath Before Reading What Follows

Normally I prefer to wait a day or two before posting about any news item.  More than likely there is more information to follow, and time allows for a more judicious interpretation of events.  Not today.  Not with something I read this afternoon.  Here is the text of a letter sent today from the U.S. Senate to Ayatollah Khamenei and other senior leaders of Iran.  The letter was signed by 47 Republican Senators.

 

Read More

House Republicans want to legally forbid EPA from looking at science it doesn’t like

Salon.com, Joanna Rothkopf, March 3

Two bills are up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, both of which could significantly impact the way the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to use science to come up with regulations. The Secret Science Reform Act and the Science Advisory Board Reform Act both require the EPA to consider only publicly available, easily reproducible data when making policy recommendations. Scientific organizations and environmental groups, as well as a number of Democrats, disapprove of the bills, arguing that they favor industry over real science.

Over 50 scientific organizations spoke out in opposition to the Secret Science bill, noting that large-scale public health studies would be ineligible for consideration because large sample sizes could not be easily reproduced.
Read More

Senate Gives Approval for Defense Secretary, if Not His Boss’s Policies

Ashton B. Carter Is Confirmed as Defense Chief, Replacing Chuck Hagel

New York Times, By Emmarie Huetteman, February 12

Washington — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ashton B. Carter [wikipedia] to be the next defense secretary, installing a new Pentagon chief as the United States increases military action against the Islamic State.

Mr. Carter, a former deputy defense secretary who is President Obama’s choice to replace Chuck Hagel, was approved by a vote of 93 to 5, a striking scene of accord as tensions mount over the wait to confirm Loretta E. Lynch as the next attorney general. Five Republicans opposed Mr. Carter’s confirmation.

[…]

But as one confirmation moved forward, another stalled. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee decided on Thursday to delay a committee vote to confirm Ms. Lynch, the president’s nominee to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Though several Republicans praised Ms. Lynch as her confirmation hearings ended last month, the hearings featured a heavy dose of harsh criticism of Mr. Holder’s Justice Department.

Obama to Seek War Power Bill From Congress, to Fight ISIS

New York Times, By Jeremy W. Peters, February 11

Washington – The Obama administration has informed lawmakers that the president will seek a formal authorization to fight the Islamic State that would prohibit the use of “enduring offensive ground forces” and limit engagement to three years. The approach offers what the White House hopes is a middle way on Capitol Hill for those on the right and left who remain deeply skeptical of its plans to thwart extremist groups.

The request, which could come in writing as early as Wednesday morning, would open what is expected to be a monthslong debate over presidential war powers and the wisdom of committing to another unpredictable mission in the Middle East while the nation is still struggling with the consequences of two prolonged wars.

Congress has not voted to give a president formal authority for a military operation since 2002 when it backed George W. Bush in his campaign to strike Iraq after his administration promoted evidence, since discredited, that Saddam Hussein’s government possessed unconventional weapons.

Biden to skip Netanyahu’s speech before Congress

A statement released by Biden’s office indicated that the vice president will be abroad on the day that Netanyahu is scheduled to address Congress.

Jerusalem Post, By Michael Wilner, February 6

Vice President Joe Biden will not be attending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress next month.

A statement released by aides to Biden, who is usually in his seat whenever a foreign leader addresses the legislature by dint of his position as president of the Senate, indicated that the vice president will be traveling abroad during the speech.

“We are not ready to announce details of his trip yet, and normally our office wouldn’t announce this early, but the planning process has been underway for a while,” an official in the vice president’s office told The Jerusalem Post, suggesting planning for the trip began before Netanyahu’s visit was announced.

“We will announce additional information as soon as we are able,” the official said.

CIA board clears staff of snooping Senate computers

A CIA internal watchdog has cleared agency officers of improperly accessing the computers of members of the US Senate intelligence committee.

BBC, January 15

It said CIA officers acted reasonably in searching computers after concerns they contained classified material.

The finding contradicts allegations from lawmakers and an admission from the agency’s own inspector general.

The allegations came during the intelligence committee’s investigation into claims of torture by the CIA.

Round Goes the Revolving Door: Black Water Lobbyist to Run House Intel Committee

The revolving door between government and private industry is quite scary.

Alternet, By Lee Fang, December 16

After lobbyist-run SuperPACs and big money efforts dominated the last election, legislators are now appointing lobbyists to literally manage the day-to-day affairs of Congress. For the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees government intelligence operations and agencies, the changing of the guard means a lobbyist for Academi, the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater, is now in charge.

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the House reconvenes in January, announced that Jeff Shockey will be the new Staff Director of the committee. As a paid representative of Academi, Shockey and his firm have earned $80,000 this year peddling influence on behalf of Academi.

In previous years, the House Intelligence Committee has investigated Blackwater over secret contracts with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. As Staff Director, the highest position on a committee for a staff member, Shockey will oversee the agencies that do business with his former employer.

Shockey also represents a number of other companies with business before defense agencies: General Dynamics, Koch Industries, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, Innovative Defense Technologies and Boeing.

Three Members of Congress Just Reignited the Cold War While No One Was Looking by

TruthDig/Common Dreams, By Dennis Kucinich, December 16

Late Thursday night, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a far-reaching Russia sanctions bill, a hydra-headed incubator of poisonous conflict. The second provocative anti-Russian legislation in a week, it further polarizes our relations with Russia, helping to cement a Russia-China alliance against Western hegemony, and undermines long-term America’s financial and physical security by handing the national treasury over to war profiteers.

Here’s how the House’s touted “unanimity” was achieved: Under a parliamentary motion termed “unanimous consent,” legislative rules can be suspended and any bill can be called up. If any member of Congress objects, the motion is blocked and the bill dies.

At 10:23:54 p.m. on Thursday, a member rose to ask “unanimous consent” for four committees to be relieved of a Russia sanctions bill. At this point the motion, and the legislation, could have been blocked by a single member who would say “I object.” No one objected, because no one was watching for last-minute bills to be slipped through.

Most of the House and the media had emptied out of the chambers after passage of the $1.1 trillion government spending package.

The Congressional Record will show only three of 425 members were present on the floor to consider the sanctions bill. Two of the three feigned objection, creating the legislative equivalent of a ‘time out.’ They entered a few words of support, withdrew their “objections” and the clock resumed.
According to the clerk’s records, once the bill was considered under unanimous consent, it was passed, at 10:23:55 p.m., without objection, in one recorded, time-stamped second, unanimously.

No mention of the Senate…

US Senate Torture Report publication countdown

12/8/2014 (originally posted Dec 8th, 10:37 pm)

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said that the release of a Senate report examining the use of torture by the CIA a decade ago will cause violence and deaths abroad.


12/9/2014 (originally posted Dec 9th,13:37 pm)

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, defended her push to release the report on the interrogation program, saying that though she was concerned that the new information could draw violent reactions around the world, it was a necessary step for the United States to move beyond a dark period in its past.

Update: (via EmptyWheel). Reports released include:

The SSCI Torture Report
The Minority Response to SSCI Torture Report
Dianne Feinstein’s Statement

Rockefeller under fire for blocking FOIA bill

The Hill, By Julian Hattem, December 5

Retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) is being blamed for placing a secret hold on a bipartisan bill to update the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The bill, which the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved last month, has broad support among transparency advocates who have begun vocally criticizing Rockefeller for holding the bill up on his way out the door.

“If we can get the agreement of such a wide range of characters, why be the holdout?” said Amy Bennett, the assistant director of the Open the Government coalition, noting the support among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“This is how Congress is supposed to work. Not through last second holds.”

Via: E Pluribus Unum: Threatening legacy, Senator Jay Rockefeller stands alone holding back historic FOIA reform in the USA
Via: Boing Boing: Senator Jay Rockefeller singlehandedly kills Freedom of Information Act reform

3bb1012ca7881a903f6bb688401857a5453d3be4