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Senate Passes Defense Authorization Bill

It's official. The Senate, by a vote of 86-13, has passed the $662 billion NDAA, which was passed by the House yesterday.

The bill now goes to President Obama to sign, and his advisers are no longer recommending a veto over the detainee provisions.

You can read the detainee provisions here.

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Senate to Consider Detainee Legislative Amendments Tomorrow

There's still time to contact your Senator and ask to vote for the Mark Udall Amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. (Background here.)

After passing two of the many Amendments (Menendez amend #1414 and Leahy Leahy amend #1072 )and confirming Christopher Droney as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Senate recessed until tomorrow.

Sen. Mark Udall will make a floor statement tomorrow on the Amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a procedural vote on the Defense Bill for sometime Wednesday.

Today, FBI Director Robert Mueller sent a letter to the Senate objecting to the detainee provisions in the bill.

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White House Abandons Long Term Care Component of AHA

The provisions of the Affordable Care Act intended to provide affordable long term care assistance have been scrapped. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (correctly in my view) says it wouldn't be economically viable. Premiums would be too high, healthy people and young people wouldn't enroll.

There are no plans to revamp it. It certainly was not an entitlement:

It would have been financed with premiums paid by workers, through voluntary payroll deductions, with no federal subsidy.


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House Passes Protect Life Act Restricting Abortion Coverage

The House tonight passed the Protect Life Act. The vote was 251 to 172. Only 15 of the "aye" votes were Democrat. 170 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted against the bill. Who were the bad apples? You can view the vote here or here.

The bill is H.R. 358, Protect Life Act. [More...]

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Senate Approp. Comm. Eliminates Funding for Prisoner Reentry , Increases BOP Funds

Remember the big deal Attorney General Eric Holder made of the Administration's increased proposed funding for Prisoner Re-Entry programs? And Holder's touting the inauguratiion of a cabinet level "Reentry Council"? And how proud Obama and Holder were of the amounts in the 2012 proposed $28.2 billion Department of Justice Budget requested for Second Chance Act and reentry programs ?

The Budget provides $187 million in prisoner re-entry and jail diversion programs, including $100 million for the Second Chance Act programs and $57 million for drug, mental health, and other problem-solving courts.

Would you believe that yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee zapped the funding for prisoner reentry programs entirely, saying the money was needed for the Bureau of Prisons? It actually gave BOP an increase, to $6.6 billion. [More...]

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Big Business Wins In Proposed Patent "Reform"

BTD's EDITORIAL NOTE - This post is written by my law firm colleague, Philip Furgang, a noted New York patent law practitioner. Philip is the author of the forthcoming book, "Patent Prosecution" (Oxford University Press.) The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of TalkLeft.

The future of America lies in its ability to be creative — to “out think” the rest of the world. Come up with a great idea and you can become rich. You can build a business that will create many jobs. And there is a system in place to protect inventors, the patent system. Think of those who have done it: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, the Wright Brothers, and many, many more. That system, the system which made it all possible for the US to lead the world, a system in place since 1789, the system is about to be changed to discourage creativity, and to hobble the independent inventor. Large corporations have mounted a large lobbying campaign, spending huge sums of money, to get the so-called “America Invents Act” through Congress. They must be stopped. [More . . ]

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House Passes Debt Reduction Bill

The House of Representatives has passed the deficit reduction bill. The vote: 269 to 161.

The Senate will vote tomorrow.

Update: Here's the roll call vote: The ayes and noes.The Democrats are in italics.

Kudos to Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette for voting against the bill. Same for Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank, Bobby Scott, John Conyers, Charlie Rangel and Zoe Lofgran.

Nancy Pelosi voted for the bill.

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Obama Certifies Repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"

Via CBS News:

President Obama on Friday signed a certification of Congress' repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gay men and women from serving openly in the military, setting the stage for the Clinton-era policy to be formally abolished on September 20, 2011. The policy will not be formally abolished until September 20 because the legislation passed by Congress late last year requires a 60-day waiting period between the certification by Mr. Obama and military leaders and full repeal.

...Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen also certified that the military was prepared for repeal to be implemented.

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Bill Introduced to Legalize Marijuana Use in States That Allow It


Today, a bi-partisan group of representatives introduced the first federal bill since 1937 aimed at ending marijuana prohibition. To coincide with the bill’s introduction NORML is launching a new public service announcement featuring NORML Advisory Board member, country music icon, and cannabis enthusiast Willie Nelson. In the video below, Willie calls on you to support this important legislation and to contact your elected officials and encourage them to do the same.

Major props to Colorado Rep. Jared Polis for co-sponsoring the bill introduced today. It's called Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 and was introduced by Barney Frank and Ron Paul. [More...]

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Bill to Require Warrant for Location Tracking Introduced in Congress

Rep. Ron Wyden and others have introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (H.R. 2168, available here) requiring cops to get a warrant based on probable cause to track your location via your cell phone or other device.

The ACLU explains:

The danger that unregulated location tracking poses to American’s privacy is real, immediate and universal. Because of the prevalence of mobile phones in modern society, every American is carrying a portable tracking device, one that can be used to reveal their current and past location. These devices store our every move. Whether it is a visit to a therapist or liquor store, church or gun range, many individuals’ locations will be available either in real time or months later.

Because of the sensitivity and invasiveness of these records, law enforcement agents should always be required to obtain a warrant and show probable cause, no matter the technology employed or the age of the records.

The bill needs additional sponsors, so please contact your Representatives in Congress and ask them to sign on. [More...]

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House Passes Funding Bill With World-Wide War and Detention Authority

Yesterday, the House passed its version of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (available here.) The roll call vote is here. The bill, which is a renewal of the 2001 authority for war, expands the authority world-wide. The bill passed by a vote of 322-96 and contains a $553 billion Pentagon base budget and $119 billion for overseas contingency operations.

It also blocks federal criminal trials of suspected terrorists who are not U.S. citizens. An amendment to strike the worldwide war provision failed. Obama has promised to veto the bill due to the world-wide war authority provision.

The bill also delays implementation of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and provides that those considered for indefinite detention at Guantanamo may not be represented by legal counsel, only a military representative. It also prohibits the Guantanamo detainees from receiving family visits. [More...]

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Obama Signs Bill Extending Patriot Act Provisions for Four Years

Update: President Obama signed the Patriot Act bill from France with his auto-pen.

Update: House passes Senate bill, 250 to 153.

The Senate today, by a vote of 72 - 23, approved the extension of the Patriot Act's provisions on roving wiretaps, access to business records and "lone wolf" surveillance. The House is debating now and will hold a vote imminently.You can watch the debate here. President Obama will be woken up at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow to sign it.


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WA Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Licensing Bill

DOJ's tricks are working. After the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington sent a letter to the legislature warning that passage of a medical marijuana licensing bill would subject state workers to federal prosecution, today Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed the bill, saying she was "swayed" by the letter. (Background on the almost identical letters sent by a number of U.S. attorneys in recent weeks in states where medical marijuana is legal is here.)

More U.S. Attorneys are jumping on the bandwagon. Today, it was the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, sending almost a verbatim letter, even though he hadn't been asked for his position.

And in Montana today, Governor Brian Schweitzer let the bill that passed the legislature this week restricting medical marijuana become law by doing nothing. His lame explanation: [More...]

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Montana Revises and Tightens Medical Marijuana Law

Montana has allowed medical marijuana since 2004. Today, the Senate joined the House in passing a reform bill. It now heads to the Governor. You can read the bill, SB 423 (SB0423.ENR) here. Among the key provisions:

  • The law repeals the existing Montana Medical Marijuana Act.
  • Lawmakers specified a list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify for a medical marijuana card and defined a standard of care that doctors must comply with to issue a card. The bill now prohibits telemedicine.
  • Lawmakers placed regulatory authority with the Department of Health.
  • The committee limited the number of plants a card-holder can have to 4 mature plants, 12 seedlings and 1 oz of usable marijuana.
  • The amended bill defines chronic pain and forces a patient to either have proof of pain or have 2 doctors certify a chronic pain patient.


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House Vote to Strip NPR Funding is Symbolic, Won't Happen

The House today voted to strip NPR of federal funding.

It's a symbolic vote. Democrats in the Senate won't pass it, if they will even allow it to reach a vote. And the White House opposes it, and President Obama would veto it.

With all the problems going on in the world, it's ridiculous that Republicans would waste time on something like this.

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