Tag: US Senate

Some Good News

Despite all the angst over the main event of the 2020 election season, there is some good news. Senator Martha McSally, Trump sycophant from Arizona, lost her appointed seat in a special election to former Astronaut and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly by a 6.8 point with only 82% of the vote …

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The Real Purpose for Sally Yates’ Testimony: Propaganda to Elect Trump

You remember Sally Yates, who served as Acting Attorney General for 10 days in the fledgling Trump Crime Regime before the unindicted co-conspirator fired her for refusing to back his Muslim ban. She was back testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Lyndsey Graham (R-SC). Ms. Yates blew the GOP conspiracy theories undercutting …

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The Florida US Senate Debate

While the majority of the political world was focused on the five Eastern state primaries, a unique debate took place Monday night. Senatorial hopefuls Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Rep. David jolly (R-FL) participated in Florida Open Debate for U.S. Senate. They are both vying for the Senate seat vacated by Marco Rubio and both …

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Meet Tim Scott, the Newest Senator

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Shortly after the election, South Carolina’s junior senator and Tea Party hero, Jim DeMint announced his resignation to become the head of the right wing Washington based think tank, The Heritage Foundation. That left it to the Tea Party governor, Nikki Haley, to appoint someone to fill the remaining two years of DeMint’s senate term. Gov. Haley stated that she would not appoint a “place holder” but would look for a person who would be a viable candidate for a full term in 2014. Today the governor announced her decision, overlooking polling favorite and native son Stephen Colbert, appointing the African American freshman US Representative Tim Scott to the seat.

David Dayen at FDL News reports:

Scott becomes the first African-American Senator since Roland Burris left in 2010, and the first African-American representing the South in the Senate since Reconstruction (there have only been six other African-American Senators total in the history of the country). Gov. Haley made the announcement at the State House in Columbia a short while ago:

Mr. Scott, 47, offers a unique story and background, one that is in scant supply in the Republican Party right now. Raised by a single mother, he was, by his account, a lost child who struggled with school and with life until a Chick-fil-A franchise owner took him on as a protégé and schooled him in conservative principles.

“Coming from a single-parent household and almost flunking out of high school,” Mr. Scott said in 2010, during his bid for the House, “my hope is I will take that experience and help people bring out the best that they can be.”

As David notes, don’t let Mr. Scott’s background fool you and links to this article at Think Progress:

By Scott Keyes on Dec 17, 2012 at 9:46 am

Tim Scott is America’s newest senator today after getting tapped by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to fill the vacancy left by former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). DeMint announced this month that he was leaving the Senate to head up the Heritage Foundation, an arch-conservative think tank in Washington DC.

Though DeMint left big, controversial shoes to fill for Republicans, few conservatives will be disappointed with Scott’s record. Elected to Congress just two years ago in the Tea Party wave, Scott has already garnered headlines for his plan to impeach President Obama, his legislation to cut off union members’ children from food stamps, and his defense of Big Oil.

Here’s a quick look at Scott’s record:

  • Floated impeaching Obama over the debt ceiling. As the debt ceiling debate raged in the summer of 2011 because of the intransigence of Tea Party freshmen like Scott, the nation inched perilously close to defaulting on its obligations. One option discussed by some officials to avoid that scenario was for the president to assert that the debt ceiling itself was an unconstitutional infringement on the 14th Amendment. However, Tim Scott told a South Carolina Tea Party group that if Obama were to go this route, it would be an “impeachable act.”
  • Proposed a bill to cut off food stamps for entire families if one member went on strike. One of the most anti-union members of Congress, Scott proposed a bill two months after entering Congress in 2011 to kick families off food stamps if one adult were participating in a strike. Scott’s legislation made no exception for children or other dependents.
  • Wanted to spend an unlimited amount of money to display Ten Commandments outside county building. When Scott was on the Charleston County Council, one of his primary issues was displaying the Ten Commandments outside the Council building. According to the Augusta Chronicle, Scott said the display “would remind council members and speakers the moral absolutes they should follow.” When he was sued for violating the Constitution and a Circuit Judge’s orders, Scott was nonplussed: “Whatever it costs in the pursuit of this goal (of displaying the Commandments) is worth it.”
  • Defended fairness of giving billions in subsidies to Big Oil. Scott and his Republican allies in Congress voted repeatedly last year to protect more than $50 billion in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil corporations. When ThinkProgress asked Scott whether it was fair to do that, especially at a time when oil companies are earning tens of billions in profit every quarter, the Tea Party freshman defended the industry: “fair is a relative word,” said Scott.
  • Helped slash South Carolina’s HIV/AIDS budget. As a state representative, Scott backed a proposal to cut the state’s entire HIV/AIDS budget, despite the fact that South Carolina ranks in the top-third of reported AIDS cases. The cuts were ultimately included in the state’s budget, impacting more than 2,000 HIV-positive South Carolinians who needed help paying for their medication.

If you thought that the Senate couldn’t possibly be any worse, oh my, were you wrong. Now more that ever, the Senate needs to reform filibuster.

Abridging the Sixth Amendment

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Tonight the US Senate has abridged that amendment with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act that contains a provision that would allow for the indefinite detention of American civilians arrested on American soil suspected of being “enemy combatants” by a vote of 93 -7. It allows for anyone alleged to be an “enemy combatant” anywhere in the world sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was drafted in secret and passed out of committee without a single hearing.

Glen Greenwald at Salon highlights the most alarming aspects of the bill:

   (1) mandates that all accused Terrorists be indefinitely imprisoned by the military rather than in the civilian court system; it also unquestionably permits (but does not mandate) that even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil accused of Terrorism be held by the military rather than charged in the civilian court system (Sec. 1032);

   (2) renews the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) with more expansive language: to allow force (and military detention) against not only those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and countries which harbored them, but also anyone who “substantially supports” Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces” (Sec. 1031); and,

   (3) imposes new restrictions on the U.S. Government’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo (Secs. 1033-35). [..]

The Levin/McCain bill would require that all accused Terrorists be held in military detention and not be charged in a civilian court – including those apprehended on U.S. soil – with two caveats: (1) it exempts U.S. citizens and legal residents from this mandate, for whom military detention would still be optional (i.e., in the discretion of the Executive Branch); and (2) it allows the Executive Branch to issue a waiver if it wants to charge an accused Terrorist in the civilian system.

As per emptywheel, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) proposed an amendment (pdf) that would have removed the language but it was defeated by a vote of 45 – 55.

Some has forgotten to tell the Senate that Osama bun Laden is dead, we have killed virtually all of Al Qaeda’s leadership and the group is “operationally ineffective” in the Afghan-Pakistan and region and that we are near completion of withdrawal from Iraq and beginning to draw down the troops in Afghanistan. But the absurd view from war hawk, conservatives like Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) who believe Al Qaeda is a threat that requires trashing the Constitution, as Graham said:

“The threats we face as a nation are growing. Homegrown terrorism is going to become a greater reality, and we need to have tools,” Graham argued. “Law enforcement is one tool, but in some cases holding people who have decided to help al Qaeda and turn on the rest of us and try to kill us so we can hold them long enough to interrogate them to find out what they’re up to makes sense.”

“When you hold somebody under the criminal justice system you have to read them their rights right off the bat,” Graham added. “Under the law of war you don’t because the purpose is to gather intelligence. We need that tool now as much as any time, including World War II.”

That is most chilling statement regarding to our civil liberties. This is from the same man who supported President Obama’s due-process-free assassination of Anwar Awlaki that totally disregarded Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution which provides that nobody can be punished for treason without heightened due process requirements being met.

It isn’t often that freshman Tea Party Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says something sensible but he wrote in the Washington Times defending the Sixth Amendment that the “war on terror doesn’t justify retreat on rights”:

James Madison, father of the Constitution, warned, “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” Abraham Lincoln had similar thoughts, saying, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

During war, there has always been a struggle to preserve constitutional liberties. During the Civil War, the right of habeas corpus was suspended. Newspapers were closed. Fortunately, those actions were reversed after the war.

The discussion now to suspend certain rights to due process is especially worrisome, given that we are engaged in a war that appears to have no end. Rights given up now cannot be expected to be returned. So we do well to contemplate the diminishment of due process, knowing that the rights we lose now may never be restored.

Will President Obama veto this bill as has been hinted? Not likely, since as Greenwald point out Obama has maintained that dozens of detainees would continue to be held indefinitely and that he planned“not to close, but simply to re-locate to Illinois, the Guantanamo system of indefinite, military detention.” While the President has expressed his opposition to the bill, his objection is that the matter of denying accused terrorists a civilian trial is not up to Congress but for the President alone to decide. In other words, the White House’s objections are grounded in broad theories of Executive Power.

While Greenwald may be willing to believe the White House is opposed to having the military detain and imprison U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, there are those who think President Obama is more concerned over who should get to decide which accused terrorist suspects are denied due process, not whether they should be.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither safety nor liberty. Benjamin Franklin

Chipping away at our liberties. Frightening.

Quote Of The Day:

“This is a moment of truth for the Democratic Party. Will we stand for the people or the insurance companies?

We compromised on [a] single payer [health care system] by backing a public option, and now we are being asked to compromise the public option with negotiated rates. In conference, we will likely be asked to compromise negotiated rates with a trigger.

In each and every step of the health care debate, the insurance companies have won. If they get hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxpayer subsidies, they get to raise their premiums, and increase their co-pays and deductibles, while the public is forced to pay for private insurance, then the insurance companies win big.

If this is the best we can do, then it is time to ask ourselves whether the two-party system is truly capable of representing the American people or whether the system has been so compromised by special interests that we can’t even protect the health of our own people.”

                — U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-OH

No We Can’t: Obama sabotages Harry Reid’s PO efforts

President Obama and his staff (Rahm Emanuel) are actively undermining Senator Harry Reid’s efforts to get a Public Option through the Senate, with the opt-out provision, and instead favor the Insurance Company blessed “triggercharade that has been championed by Republican Senator Olympia Snow.

A sitting U. S. President has enormous power to influence wavering Senators on close bills, and keep unity within the Party on important goals. But Obama is not only sitting by passively and refusing to get behind Harry Reid’s effort, he is actually now scoffing at it, and projecting that Reid’s effort can’t work (i.e. sabotaging the momentum) while refusing to lend any proactive help to make it succeed.

NBC News reported that Obama administration officials called Reid’s decision to go ahead with an opt-out public option “dangerous.”

The administration basically told Reid, “You’re the vote counter. But don’t come crying to us when you need that last vote,” Chuck Todd said on MSNBC.

Obama privately discouraged Senate Democrats from pursuing the opt-out plan. “Everybody knows we’re close enough that these guys could be rolled. They just don’t want to do it” a senior Democratic source told the Huffington Post, saying that Obama is worried about the political fate of Blue Dogs and conservative Senate Democrats. “These last couple folks, they could get them if Obama leaned on them.”


Warning: Health Care “Reform” hazardous to your Health

I received this message today about the state of Health Care Reform efforts in Congress. It is important to understand what is about to go down, and why our voices need to be louder and angrier right now than any “teabagger”.  Let Harry Reid and Rahm Emanual feel our wrath!

I’ll let Dennis Kucinich take over from here:

Dear Friends,

It is said one should not ask how sausage or laws are made. Are you concerned about a public option? Let me share with you some insight about health care legislation which may not be good for your health.

The Kucinich Prediction: Here’s what’s going to happen …

  • House will make a big deal about keeping/putting a public option in HR3200 because it competes with insurance companies and will keep insurance rates low.
  • The White House will refer to the President’s speech last week where he spoke favorably of the public option.
  • The Senate will kill the competitive public option in favor of non-competitive “co-ops”. Senate leaders like Kent Conrad have said the votes to pass a public option were never there in the Senate.
  • The bill will come to a House-Senate Conference Committee without the public option.  

    House Democrats will be told to support the conference report on the legislation to “support the President”.

  • The bill will pass, not with a “public option” but with a private mandate requiring 30 million uninsured to buy private health insurance   (if one doesn’t already have it). If you are broke, you may get a subsidy. If you are not broke, you will get a fine if you do not purchase insurance.
  • This legislative sausage will be celebrated as a “new breakthrough” and will be packaged as health insurance reform.

    However, the bill may require a Surgeon General’s warning label: Your Money or Your Life!

It is The Democratic Leadership Destroying Reform

We hear it all the time: “but we need 60 votes in the Senate to pass anything“.  “We can’t do anything without 60 votes.”

But it is a lie.

They, in fact, can pass meaningful Health Care Reform, if they really wanted to, the exact same way that George W. Bush passed his various numerous Tax giveaways for the rich, Corporate Welfare bills, and other corrupt, unpopular legislation, with just 51 votes.

The idea that what Sen. Grassley thinks or does matters one damn bit in this whole debate is not really true.

Once again, the fundamental problem here is that The Democratic Party refuses to use it’s political power.  We see this over and over and over:

  • Whether its refusing to investigate and impeach Dick Cheney (an unpopular War Criminal with an 18% approval rating)
  • Or refusing to investigate and impeach George Bush (perhaps the most unaccomplished and unpopular President in U.S. History)
  • Or whether it is refusing to cut off the War Funding and stop the unnecessary bloodshed and chaos overseas.
  • Or whether it is refusing to enforce House subpeonas by backing them with the threat of House arrest.
  • Or refusing to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law on any front.

  • Or whether its walking backwards progressive legislative goals, despite Election victories, even before any Congressional debate commences.
  • Or whether it is deliberately shutting out the progressive voices from any public representation altogether, even as they pocket the campaign money that they begged us for.

The truth is that Obama is not focused on passing meaningful HCR at all, he is focused on passing a “Bipartisan” (Republican approved) bill — which by definition means the teeth of the reform itself necessarily have to be jettisoned.  

“They Frankly Own the Place”

Why does it seem that there in so much corruption in Washington, and why are people like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner able to set WH policy and continue raiding the Treasury and robbing you blind? Why do the House and the Senate seem to bend over backwards kowtowing to Wall Street and Banking Industry fat cats?

“They Frankly Own the Place”

by Matt Renner, Editor and Washington reporter for Truthout.

   What happens when a powerful senator goes up against an industry which has received roughly four trillion dollars in taxpayer support to stave off complete collapse? The senator loses.

   Or at least that seems to be what happened last week when an amendment, which would have given bankruptcy judges the ability to adjust or “cram down” mortgages to help borrowers avoid foreclosure, was not able to garner the 60 votes needed to overcome a self-imposed invisible filibuster, which continues to haunt the Democrats in the Senate.

   A procedural step to cut off debate and move to vote on the amendment was defeated by a 45 to 51 vote on the floor of the Senate, with 12 Democrats crossing the isle to vote with a unified Republican Party.

   After the vote, Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the second highest ranking Democrat and author of the legislation, broke a taboo of the Senate with a charge of institution-wide corruption.

   “And the banks – hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created – are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place,” Durbin said.

Read the whole thing here…

Short Diary – Senate Committee Torture Report Released

From TPM:

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody” has now been posted on the Committee’s website.

Warning, the link is a pdf of over 250 pages.

Just one excerpt:

Military Lawyers Raise Red Flags and Joint Staff Review Quashed (U)

(U) In early November 2002, in a series of memos responding to the Joint Staff’s call for

comments on GTMO’s request, the military services identified serious legal concerns about the techniques and called for additional analysis.

(U) The Air Force cited “serious concerns regarding the legality of many of the proposed techniques” and stated that “techniques described may be subject to challenge as failing to meet the requirements outlined in the military order to treat detainees humanely…” The Air Force also called for an in depth legal review ofthe request.

(U) CITF’s Chief Legal Advisor wrote that certain techniques in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request “may subject service members to punitive articles ofthe [Uniform Code of Military Justice],” called “the utility and legality of applying certain techniques” in the request “questionable,” and stated that he could not “advocate any action, interrogation or otherwise, that is predicated upon the principle that all is well ifthe ends justify the means and others are not aware ofhow we conduct our business.”

(U) The Chief of the Army’s International and Operational Law Division wrote that techniques like stress positions, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, and use of phobias to induce stress “crosses the line of ‘humane’ treatment,” would “likely be considered maltreatment” under the UCMJ, and “may violate the torture statute.” The Army labeled GTMO’s request “legally insufficient” and called for additional review.

(U) The Navy recommended a “more detailed interagency legal and policy review” of the

request. And the Marine Corps expressed strong reservations, stating that several techniques in the request “arguably violate federal law, and would expose our service members to possible prosecution.” The Marine Corps also said the request was not “legally sufficient,” and like the other services, called for “a more thorough legal and policy review.”

(U) Then-Captain (now Rear Admiral) Jane Dalton, Legal Counsel to the Chairman of

the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that her staff discussed the military services’ concerns with the DoD General Counsel’s Office at the time and that the DoD General Counsel Jim Haynes was aware of the services’ concerns. Mr. Haynes, on the other hand, testified that he did not know that the memos from the military services existed (a statement he later qualified by stating that he was not sure he knew they existed). Eliana Davidson, the DoD Associate Deputy General Counsel for International Affairs, said that she told the General Counsel that the GTMO request needed further assessment. Mr. Haynes did not recall Ms. Davidson telling him that.

(U) Captain Dalton, who was the Chairman’s Legal Counsel, said that she had her own

concerns with the GTMO request and directed her staff to initiate a thorough legal and policy review ofthe techniques. That review, however, was cut short. Captain Dalton said that General Myers returned from a meeting and advised her that Mr. Haynes wanted her to stop her review, in part because of concerns that people were going to see the GTMO request and the military services’ analysis of it. Neither General Myers nor Mr. Haynes recalled cutting short the Dalton review, though neither has challenged Captain Dalton’s recollection. Captain Dalton testified that this occasion marked the only time she had ever been told to stop analyzing a request that came to her for review.

Why Dems like the filibuster; it’s a fig leaf

Steve Burns at the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice asks a very timely question, as Congress takes it sweet time tinkering with a stimulus bill:

What is it the makes Democrats so committed to the Senate rule that allows the minority to tie things in knots?

Remember the "nuclear option" threat by the GOP when Republicans ruled the Senate? The threat, basically, was that if Dems didn't play ball they'd change the rules and eliminate the rule that says you need 60 votes to end debate and pass a bill.

It’s not like it was in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Says Burns:

After Democrats retook the Senate in the 2006, Republicans, now the minority, filibustered frequently, under a tacit agreement with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid that they would never actually be required to go through exertions of Mr. Smith’s Senator Jefferson Smith. No thermos of hot coffee and wax-paper-wrapped sandwiches for them, Republican leaders merely needed to utter the word “filibuster” and Reid would quickly drop any proposed legislation that didn’t have a guarantee of 60 votes. This exercise became so routine that newspapers began to omit mention of the filibuster entirely, simply reporting that a piece of legislation failed because it didn’t have the “60 votes needed for passage.” An inattentive reader might be forgiven for thinking the Constitution had been quietly amended to require a three-fifths majority for passage of legislation in the Senate.

Why do the two parties have such differing levels of commitment to the filibuster? Republicans, when in the majority, are willing to discard it entirely, and agree to keep it only on the condition that it never be used, while Democrats cling stubbornly to the filibuster, even when it appears to ensure the defeat of their legislative program. Why?

I’ve thought for some time, during the last session of Congress, that Democrats should call the GOP bluff.  Make them actually filibuster.

I’ve been thinking it while watching this charade on the stimulus bill.  If Republicans want to stand up and talk for days to prevent passage of an economic stimulus package, while the economic handbasket careens closer to hell every day, let them do that.

Let the whole country see what they stand for.  Let the voters see that it’s not just Rush Limbaugh who is willing to put everyone at risk for the sake of political payback.

If they want to filibuster, I say bring it on.

It’s time for Dems to quit making nice and up the ante.

But WNPJ's Burns suggests that Harry Reid and others may actually like the rule, and the way it’s applied now, because it gives them a great excuse for inaction or half-assed action:

It places Senate Democrats in the enviable position of enjoying all the perks of being the majority party – like committee chairmanships and an increased ability to bring home the bacon – with none of the responsibilities that would normally accompany majority party status. “Want more money for Head Start? Sorry, we’d just love to do that, but those nasty Republicans won’t let us – the filibuster, you know,” is the standard Democratic refrain.

Read the rest of Burn's excellent piece on the WNPJ blog here.  

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